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5 Steps Every CIO Should be Taking Toward the Cloud

By Lee Congdon, CIO, Red Hat


Lee Congdon, CIO, Red Hat

Whether or not it’s sanctioned by your IT practice, someone, somewhere in your organization is using the cloud right now. It could be Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com, or any of the hundreds of other readily available cloud services. Whatever the case, they’re being used, probably heavily and regularly.

Don’t consider this an affront. Instead, view it as an opportunity to take the lead on your company’s cloud initiatives– and reap the benefits.

Clouds can help organizations achieve a number of important goals. They can help businesses become more agile and deliver applications at faster speeds. They also allow for better integration of applications and ensure that data is being reused properly. They can aid sustainability efforts by promoting greater efficiency and the use of fewer compute resources. And yes, they are able to do all of this while being highly secure.

Still, there’s a large number of organizations that continue to sit on the cloud sidelines. I’m reminded of ten years ago, when open source was still relatively misunderstood or unheard of by the masses. Back then, there was some buzz around software like Linux, but those who were talking about it were mainly doing just that–talking.

Fast forward to 2015. Open source has gone mainstream and is now seen as a standard technology in many businesses

That’s the trajectory the cloud has already begun to take, and it’s moving so fast we’re already seeing the birth of “hybrid clouds.” These solutions allow organizations to easily leverage the advantages of public and private clouds, on-premise and virtual deployments, and existing resources and capacity. If built on an open source foundation, they can flexibly link storage and network components, physical and virtual servers, and, ultimately, allow IT organizations to create and manage heterogeneous environments that are extremely adaptable.

As a CIO, it’s time for you to take the lead on preparing your organization move toward the cloud and, specifically, hybrid clouds. Here are five steps to help you get moving in the right direction:

1) Retire "technology debt"

Over the years, it’s likely that your organization has acquired what I like to refer to as “technology debt”–a collection of legacy systems, aging technologies, and multiple solutions that end up being redundant as they work to solve the same problems. Get rid of all of that. Rewrite applications, wrap them in a service-oriented architecture, or outsource them as necessary. Start fresh.

2) Get your fundamentals in order

Laying the groundwork for a cloud-based infrastructure requires literally getting your IT house in order. Take a close look at your processes, controls, production, and procedures, and make sure that all are running soundly and smoothly. Above all, make sure your staff is well trained and prepared for the move to the cloud.

“With an open source foundation, your IT organization can be uninhibited by proprietary platforms and vendor lock-in”

3) Start moving faster

Every business should be striving to become faster and to develop new services at an increasing rate. Thus, the old IT waterfall model is no longer applicable. Instead, you must make a strategic investment in technologies that allow you to accelerate the pace at which your IT organization delivers value to your business. Hybrid clouds allow this to happen because they form a consistent application environment, making it easier for organizations to quickly utilize every resource at their disposal, at all times.

Given this, you may want to heavily consider implementing DevOps, a delivery environment designed for ongoing delivery and iteration. The DevOps approach to development emphasizes collaboration and communication among developers and IT managers. It’s an organizational change born out of the need for greater agility within the enterprise, and is gaining greater traction, thanks to the cloud’s ability to provide on-demand services that allow teams to cut development time down from weeks to minutes.

4) Invest in skills development

The transition to DevOps–and the cloud as a whole–requires different lines of thinking and IT skill sets.

For one, IT managers will need to feel comfortable working across teams and at a rapid pace. In exchange for that, they will have greater influence on the direction of the IT organization and the business as a whole. As a CIO, you’ll need to manage this process from a human resources standpoint. It’s not a technology transition–it’s a revised business model that will take some adjustment.

You will also need to invest in employees that possess a wide range of skills. Not just cloud skills, either, but the ability to proficiently offer consulting and orchestrate vendor relationships. As you move to the cloud, outsourcing or “cloudsourcing” may become more prevalent. As such, the ability to manage external vendors will prove critical to your organization’s future.

5) Build your target architecture to be open and flexible

Cloud solutions foster open collaboration, speed, and innovation. Not coincidentally, these are also hallmarks of open source technology, which is very likely to be a fundamental capability for your organization moving forward.

Open source is already the foundation of most of today’s large public clouds and at the heart of innovation in the cloud space. With an open source foundation, your IT organization can be uninhibited by proprietary platforms and vendor lock-in. This flexibility can ease the move to the cloud, and allow your team to effectively integrate and connect its entire IT infrastructure through a hybrid cloud model that takes advantage of open standards. Of course, you will also be able to enjoy the fruits of the ongoing innovation being delivered by ten of thousands of open source developers around the world.

Although legacy systems are not going to completely disappear anytime soon, they’re not the future of your IT organization. That future belongs to the cloud and the open standards upon which it can be built. Here’s your chance to get ahead of that future–and build an IT organization that’s well ahead of the game.

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