As organizations move to host their application workloads across private, public and hybrid clouds, the question of where to host workloads, what kind of infrastructure resource is required, and how much to buy is rapidly becoming more complex. This reality, and the need to make safe and optimal hosting decisions regardless of where workloads are hosted, places IT in a new role as the broker of infrastructure services.
IT may no longer own all or even any of the infrastructure their applications run on. This shift means that instead of being solely responsible for keeping servers up and running, IT is now responsible for determining where each application workload should be hosted— whether on-premise or in the cloud —to meet application resource needs in the most cost-effective and compliant way. Having application owners and lines of business going off on their own and making cloud placement decisions is not a good approach from a corporate perspective. Better to entrust these critical decisions to the IT professionals with the right expertise to properly assess demand and align with the right infrastructure services to meet that demand.
But with this new role comes a challenge: IT cannot become a roadblock to the business. They need to make the optimal hosting decisions—and they need to do it rapidly. If they slow things down or, worse yet, make placements that result in application performance problems or excessive cost, the broker will be on the hook.
How can IT satisfy the needs of all constituents, including application owners and the business and financial decision-makers? Based on our experience working with enterprises of all sizes, we believe there are three key best practices to avoiding a career-hampering experience:
Just like an investment broker, making workload placements based on opinions, emotions or guesswork can lead to disastrous results. Selecting the right hosting option for application workloads is a science, not an art. Whether you are transforming large swaths of your environment or looking to place a new application, using advanced analytics that can properly model the supply and demand equation is critical. These analytics need to look at deep workload patterns, technical requirements, security, governance and other business and operational requirements to make sense of the complex requirements and rapidly make safe, compliant decisions. Resist the temptation to “go with your gut” and use in-depth analysis to guide you in the right direction.
Having a unified portfolio view of all your infrastructure – both on premise and cloud – enables objective comparison between hosting venues for hosting decisions. Siloed views that look only at on premise or cloud resources can effectively kill the ability to objectively determine whether that new application placement should stay on premise or go to the cloud. For example, a “cloud first” approach may waste a lot of money if you are sitting with ample infrastructure on your data center floor, and things like software license cost can also be a determinant of where something should go. Having silos of operations based on where the infrastructure sits limits your ability to do this kind of comparative analysis, which is necessary to truly become a broker.
A good investment broker doesn’t just assemble your portfolio and then file it away forever. Financial markets are constantly changing, demanding continual re-evaluation and re-balancing to ensure proper asset allocation. And while it is unlikely that the vision of moving applications around frequently between different cloud providers will ever really come into practice for most organizations, it is critical to have continuous, ongoing visibility into application demands and the portfolio of infrastructure they are running on. This is necessary to make sure that the right cloud services are being purchased at any given time, and that each new placement decision is optimized within the big picture. Even something as simple as making sure the latest and greatest cloud instances are being used is very powerful. Cell phone companies don’t call you when they introduce cheaper plans for you to go on, and don’t expect your cloud providers to do so either. From a technical perspective, this requires continuous, automated analysis of supply and demand so you can optimally leverage infrastructure resources avoid potential performance problems, and minimize the cost of your portfolio of hosting assets.
The role of cloud broker places an immense responsibility on IT to make optimal choices every time. But with the right approach—and the right analytics—IT will be equipped to drive business agility while at the same time making sure that the lights stay on and costs stay under control. Rather than being a roadblock to the business, this allows IT to add real value to the business.