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Aligning virtualization and cloud strategies with business goals

As an IT admin, it is often difficult to explain what you do with a simple answer. Your job is not simple or one-dimensional; system administration is merely the tip of the iceberg. You manage networks, storage arrays and servers so your company can provide services to customers and reach business goals. When considering cloud strategies for your organization, you can't lose sight of this bigger picture and you must keep these ultimate goals in mind.

In the case of cloud strategies, maybe you choose to deploy a business model similar to an Internet service provider and establish a private cloud to provide services to business units. You could also employ a public cloud to offload time-consuming maintenance tasks. You might even use cloud services to move non-revenue-generating tasks out of your data center. All of these are useful cloud strategies, but you must ask yourself if they truly align with your business goals.

Cloud strategies for every business model

Private cloud models often assume that your organization is broken into a number of smaller units that will consume these services. A large corporation, or one covering multiple product lines, would benefit from a private cloud. In those instances, a number of smaller organizations or end-user groups consume IT resources from a common pool. A private cloud strategy helps provision and delegate tasks that are better performed closer to the customer.

More resources on cloud strategies

Cooking up a private cloud and self-service portal

What are cloud's computing cost savings, really?

Judging a cloud by the security it provides

Public cloud strategies can fit a wide range of business models. In fact, many organizations put public cloud services to use long before they actually realize it: Individual employees or groups might use cloud-based file sharing, email or messaging. In this case, you should examine why employees are choosing these public cloud services, especially if your organization already provides the same services.

The value of public cloud strategies comes from their ability to offload services that would be too costly or simply too distracting for you to provide internally. Every service your organization provides comes with an opportunity cost, and takes time and resources away from another potential service.

That being the case, organizations should make it a priority to align IT resources with business goals. Any task that does not advance business goals is a prime candidate for a public cloud service. Rapid growth, short-term projects and disaster recovery needs also benefit from public cloud services. That strategy lowers the long-term cost of providing short-term resources.

Hybrid cloud services merge the benefits of both public and private cloud strategies. To provide core business functions, an organization may implement a private cloud. At the same time, it may outsource non-critical, non-revenue generating functions to a public cloud.

Ideally, a hybrid cloud will allow resources to move between the public and private cloud environments. This enables the organization to make resource placement decisions in real-time based on a number of business and market criteria. In a way, this strategy resembles a hybrid car. Rather than relying solely on either cloud, both are engaged as needed to provide the greatest total value.

As cloud computing evolves from a buzzword into a common practice, make sure that your organization understands it is just as much a tool to further business goals as it is a tool to further IT goals. Otherwise your long-term vision will simply cloud over.

This was first published in January 2013

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Which cloud strategy does your organization employ?

Mark Vaughn
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