You might be cloud ready, but are you cloud mature?

It can be exhausting – the nebulous way we all talk about “moving to the cloud”. Buzzwords are often an extreme simplification of all the possible ways a firm might transfer any part of its system away from on-premise hardware; within that category, the possibilities are many. So while most businesses incubated in the last decade are well beyond asking the “Are we cloud ready?” question, firms with pre-existing, sprawling in-house systems might benefit from a cloud migration roadmap.

After working with dozens of clients to answer these questions, it’s clear that there is a difference between cloud ready and cloud maturity. The public sector, for example, has been one of the more vocal industries when it comes to cloud migration challenges and the various strategies that have been used and failed.

Walking through the five categories of cloud maturity might help you pin-point where your company’s cloud-readiness was yesterday, is today and should be tomorrow.

1)      Lost in Legacy, you are currently using little to no cloud for enterprise. Running even your server on-premise is much harder to make an argument for than, say, keeping applications on hardware. But if you’re in this preliminary stage, simply biting the bullet and executing a lift-and-shift will save you big bucks without intervening with development processes.

A downside here is that we are far from a pay-as-you-go model. To be successful, companies must forecast technical consumption (i.e. CPU, storage, bandwidth) as well as skills required to transform from the beginning.

2)      Cautiously Curious, you have lifted and shifted to achieve basic cost savings for your core systems. To further your cloud progress, it’s important to gain an understanding of your application portfolio to make smart decisions and identify the parts of your business that will benefit most from cloud services. Establishing an application blueprint is key.

This first wave of “lift and shift” allows organisations to embrace a pay-as-you-go model. More than simply enabling a shift from CapEX to OpEX, this stage brings new elasticity to address user demand.

3)      Hanging in Hybrid: Most, but not all, of your infrastructure and storage is cloud-based. This is the point at which Native dev is a tangible goal on the horizon. You should have already conducted application portfolio analysis in stage two. Now that you understand your assets, start prioritising application migration efforts. You can do this by identifying applications that have the biggest business impact, like customer experience, data storage and more.

4)      PaaS is Possible: No more “mostly” or “almost”— your systems have been fully lifted and shifted. A whole new range of possibilities is possible now. How many cloud platforms should you leverage? How much app dev can you get to the cloud? What applications are ready to go now?

This maturity level represents an in-depth paradigm shift where the lessons learned enable organisations to expand the scope of cloud candidates to legacy apps. A variety of new features, capabilities and performance levels are now available for a wider range of apps. PaaS opens a wide library of possibilities where minor changes to legacy apps can bring unprecedented benefits.

5)      Cloud Nirvana: once you’ve answered the questions above, and used a cloud-specific metric to assess that native app dev is possible, you know you’re ready to start/complete the migration. In this stage, organisations have assumed enough skills and knowledge to:

a.       Fully understand the software portfolio and identify apps that matter most

b.       Qualify apps according to business objectives

c.       Establish clear objectives and define a roadmap

d.       Monitor cloud execution over time and make sure migration initiatives are maximising benefits to the business

Based on the above method, cloud maturity is most simply defined as moving past the IaaS stage and taking advantage of PaaS. If “lifting and shifting,” or IaaS, can expedite growth and development, what additional benefits can PaaS offer? By gaining the ability to develop and maintain applications without the added cost and headache of maintaining the in-house infrastructure necessary for such projects, IT will save major organisation costs, from server overhead to software maintenance. Even better, employing PaaS enables faster development cycles by eliminating the burden of those maintenance procedures.

What the Cloud Continuum does is take a step back and say: “this is more complicated than all-in or all-out.” Utilising the cloud in any capacity should be a thoughtful decision, not a knee-jerk reaction to what everyone else says is best. The best way to correct that tendency is for everyone, from developer to CIO to CEO, to internalise the concept of cloud maturity, and ascertain exactly where their firm is across the spectrum. Though PaaS will save a prepared company the most amount of time and money, there is no single right answer for how and when to move infrastructure, applications, and development to the cloud.

Jeff Fraleigh, global head, CAST Highlight
Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock