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Gartner Catalyst 2018: A future without data centers?

Cloud computing advancements have led some organizations to consider eliminating their data centers. Here are strategies to determine which applications are cloud-ready.

SAN DIEGO -- Can other organizations do what Netflix has done -- run a business without a data center? That's the...

question that was posed by Gartner Inc. research vice president Douglas Toombs at the Gartner Catalyst 2018 conference.

While most organizations won't run 100% of their IT in the cloud, the reality is that many workloads can be moved, Toombs told the audience.

"Your future IT is actually going to be spread across a number of different execution venues, and at each one of these venues you're trading off control and choice, but you get the benefits of not having to deal with the lower layers," he said.

Figure out the why, how much and when

When deciding why they are moving to the cloud, the "CEO drive-by strategy" -- where the CEO swings in and says, "We need to move a bunch of stuff in the cloud, go make it happen," -- shouldn't be the starting point, Toombs said.

"In terms of setting out your overall organizational priorities, what we want to do is get away from having just that as the basis and we want to try to think of ... the real reasons why," Toombs said.

Increasing business agility and accessing new technologies should be some of the top reasons why businesses would want to move their applications to the cloud, Toombs said. Once they have a sense of "why," the next thing is figuring out "how much" of their applications will make the move. For most mainstream enterprises, the sweet spot seems to be somewhere between 40% and 80% of their overall applications, he said.

Businesses then need to figure out the timeframe to make this happen. Those trying to move 50% or 60% of their apps usually give themselves about three years to try and accomplish that goal, he said. If they're more aggressive -- with a target of 80% -- they will need a five-year horizon, he said.

Whatever metric you pick, you want to track this very publicly over time within your organization.
Douglas Toombsresearch vice president, Gartner

"We need to get everyone in the organization with a really important job title -- could be the top-level titles like CIO, CFO, COO -- also in agreement and nodding along with us, and what we suggest for this is actually codifying this into a cloud strategy document," Toombs told the audience at Gartner Catalyst 2018.

Dissecting application risk

Once organizations have outlined their general strategy, Toombs suggested they incorporate the CIA triad of confidentiality, integrity and availability for risk analysis purposes.

These three core pillars are essential to consider when moving an app to the cloud so the organization can determine potential risk factors.

"You can take these principles and start to think of them in terms of impact levels for an application," he said. "As we look at an app and consider a potential new execution venue for it, how do we feel about the risk for confidentiality, integrity and availability -- is this kind of low, or no risk, or is it really severe?"

Assessing probable execution venues

Organizations need to think very carefully about where their applications go if they exit their data centers, Toombs said. He suggested they assess their applications one-by-one, moving them off into other execution venues when they're capable and are not going to increase overall risk

"We actually recommend starting with the app tier where you would have to give up the most control and look in the SaaS market," he said. They can then look at PaaS, and if they have exhausted the PaaS options in the market, they can start to look at IaaS, he said.

However, if they have found an app that probably shouldn't go to a cloud service but they still want to get to no data centers, organizations could talk to hosting providers that are out there -- they're happy to sell them hardware on a three-year contract and charge monthly for it -- or go to a colocation provider. Even if they have put 30% of their apps in a colocation environment, they are not running data center space anymore, he said.

But if for some reason they have found an app that can't be moved to any one of these execution venues, then they have absolutely justified and documented an app that now needs to stay on premises, he said. "It's actually very freeing to have a no-go pile and say, 'You know what, we just don't think this can go or we just don't think this is the right time for it, we will come back in three years and look at it again.'"

Kilowatts as a progress metric

While some organizations say they are going to move a certain percentage of their apps to the cloud, others measure in terms of number of racks or number of data centers or square feet of data center, he said.

Toombs suggested using kilowatts of data center processing power as a progress metric. "It is a really interesting metric because it abstracts away the complexities in the technology," he said.

It also:

  • accounts for other overhead factors such as cooling;
  • easily shows progress with first migration;
  • should be auditable against a utility bill; and
  • works well with kilowatt-denominated colocation contracts.

"But whatever metric you pick, you want to track this very publicly over time within your organization," he reminded the audience at the Gartner Catalyst 2018 conference. "It is going to give you a bit of a morale boost to go through your 5%, 10%, 15%, and say 'Hey, we're getting down the road here.'"

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What enterprise applications are necessary to remain on premises and not suitable for a move to the cloud?
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Mostly Vendor based applications and application which contains data which is confidential and having potential high risk. These are mostly not good for cloud ready.
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Thanks for your insight! What percentage of your enterprise workload would you say is in the cloud?
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