Fast forward four years. It’s 2009. Remember that you’re Sara, the CIO of a mid-to-large retail company. You have many accomplishments that the business leadership team (and Board of Directors) has recognized: a streamlined supply-chain management system that reduces costs and out-of-stock conditions in stores, expanded your ecommerce presence to Europe, and improved the service levels of your major mission critical applications substantially as well as most of your “tier 2” applications, to name a few.
Internally, you recognized that to have accomplished these goals for the business, changes within your IT group had to be made:
As a result, sales are up, costs are noticeably lower, and service quality is significantly improved. Life is sunny.
Until the clouds come (sorry, I just had to put that in!)
The implementation of your online presence in Europe has increased the traffic to your site infrastructure by 20%. Moreover, this move results in many holiday specialty items. While your ecommerce infrastructure (web site, fulfillment, inventory, and supply chain) has generally kept up with demand, it has struggled with performance and scaling issues during the holiday season. Also, the annual operational cost of the data center is quite high due to the need to support seasonal demands. This new expansion is stressing your servers even more at peak and, though you’ve grown capacity to meet the demand, your CFO is putting pressure on you to cut operational costs. As you look at your utilization reports in February and March, noting the significantly low traffic that your servers are getting, you know a change needs to be made.
To solve the performance issues and the overall seasonality challenge that’s causing significant annual operating costs, you form a task force to investigate the implementation of a private cloud environment. While you believe this will potentially solve the performance and scale issues, you’ve come up with more questions than answers. On the plus side, cloud technologies promise significant scalability benefits (elasticity) to be able to more effectively handle the seasonality concerns, including scaling back services when demand is low. This plan could also result in improvements in your ability to deliver services on demand by deploying ready-made virtual machines for web and application servers. However, many questions persist:
If you haven’t gathered by now, there are themes here that the War on Cost team has been exploring and discussing for some time across a variety of scenarios. They are the enduring business value pillars of reducing costs, improving agility, improving quality of service, improving governance and compliance, and managing risk. All of these value dimensions are in play with the introduction of a cloud paradigm. In fact, they have the potential to be amplified:
But, and it’s a really big but, what about complexity?
You’re thinking about the sheer number of VMs that can get spun up in your data center. Where once you had a hundred or so servers, you now have somewhere between five hundred and a thousand VMs (you’re not really sure). Will implementing cloud exacerbate that VM growth? How can I contain it? How much should I contain it?
So, therein lies the challenge before you: if you’re going to move to a private cloud because you and your business leadership team see the potential for huge benefits, how will you manage the complexity introduced by this cloud to be able to maintain and enhance your IT team’s ability to deliver for the business?
What do you think? Do these ideas ring true with you? Are there other major considerations to weigh? Let us know what your experience has been. Have you answered these questions for your organization? Don’t be shy. We want to hear from you.
All the best,
Erik, Strategist, War on Cost