How to implement a cloud-first strategy in IT organizations

By Dirk De Meirsman

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Cloud computing is more than simply using someone else’s data center, building on-premise virtualization capabilities, or shifting to managed services for applications. In a cloud-first environment, cloud services and cloud providers become commodities, enabling IT organizations to find creative solutions that help distinguish themselves from competitors. Automation is the key to make effective use of IaaS and other cloud services. In this article we will further explore the possibilities of a cloud and automation-first approach.


What is a cloud-first strategy?

A cloud-first strategy focuses on the value of limited IT resources delivering the most business value. By using public cloud services to deliver commodity IT Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platforms as a Service (PaaS), IT organizations have the opportunity to free up staff to focus on developing and supporting non-commodity, differentiated services built upon those platforms.

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In terms of cloud deployment options, consider the following guiding principles:

  • Cloud services should be the first option for any new services or when evaluating alternatives or revisions to current services. Identify reasons for not moving to the cloud rather than why you should move. Factors such as the age of applications or the data center should be taken into consideration.
  • When evaluating applications or platforms, favor those that can be run on cloud infrastructure, even if the initial implementation will be run on premises. This will help future-proof that application.
  • When evaluating cloud services, aim to select services that run as high up the stack as possible. This means selecting SaaS over PaaS and PaaS over IaaS. This enables the most effective use of IT staff resources and allows for taking full advantage of vendor architectures and support.
  • Proper procedures must be put in place to ensure the security of information and comply with all applicable regulations. By developing and applying rigorous data classification and security standards, appropriate technical and legal safeguards can be established.
  • Consideration should be given to integration with existing on premises and other cloud services, including identity management, networking, storage, etc. Preference should be given to systems that have common functional integration capabilities, such as REST APIs. 

cloud first automation


Automation and cloud-first go hand in hand

A structured and phased transformation process is crucial when moving towards a cloud enabled model. In order to make effective use of IaaS and other cloud services IT companies should adopt an automation-first mindset. Instead of approaching servers as individual works of art, it is a must to think in terms of service-level automation.

From operating system through application deployment, they need to realize the ability to automatically instantiate services entirely from source code control repositories. This shift requires embracing and investing in configuration management at the service level, not the component level.

Thus, system administrators, system engineers, and developers need to be charged with service automation as a team. The key to success is to fully embrace infrastructure as code (software defined servers, storage and networks) and to align and commit to invest in automation.

Here are some more requirements when implementing a cloud-first strategy:

  • Make sure you have an exit strategy when adopting cloud
  • Carefully evaluate new solutions, making sure every component is API first
  • Avoid vendor or platform/cloud lock-in
  • Adopt an automation-first mindset

Would you like to find out more about the transformation process? Download our eBook ‘Moving towards an innovative IT infrastructure’.

Towards an innovative IT infrastructure

By Dirk De Meirsman on 19 - 06 - 2017

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