Prepare for liftoff: 9 steps to cloud readiness

Remove head from sand. Resist impulse to hug server. Prepare yourself for the inevitable

Prepare for liftoff: 9 steps to cloud readiness

I said the cloud wouldn’t eat the world in 2017, but it's going to happen eventually. There's simply no reason for most businesses to run their own datacenter. There's no reason for most non-IT businesses to write most of their software. Buying hardware? It's a generation behind by the time you unpack it.

In the end, you have to do it. You must adapt. The business wants to use the shiny new SaaS solutions. Developers don’t want to wait on deployment. You dragged your feet this long, but now it's time to cloud. What do you do?

1. Extend the security infrastructure beyond the firewall

Among other things, this means choosing an authentication provider -- say, Google Identity Platform -- that supports a number of standard protocols. I’d probably pick Google since most of the business SaaS solutions support it or plan to support it, even if Okta, Centrify, Salesforce, and Azure Active Directory currently have more traction. The business version of Google Identity Platform is tied up with Google Apps, which means it will cost you $50 per user per year.

2. Own the SaaS budget

This will help IT stay in control through the cloud era. Sure, marketing has a credit card and can pay monthly, but they might deal with IT again if IT would foot the bill. If IT has X dollars to spend on SaaS solutions this year and everyone knows it, then they’ll come to IT.

3. Understand the SaaS solutions that might be relevant to your business

Know what they do, what protocols they support, how you access the data outside of the UI, and how will you leave if one no longer suits your needs.

4. Set clear and simple policies

For example: support for the OAuth2 protocol, HTTPS, and REST APIs. Have a page that explains the policies clearly, as well as the reasons behind them.

5. Containerize internal applications

You can do so by using Docker or solutions like it (OK, mainly I’d use Docker). Applications need to be portable. If they need to go to the cloud, you’ll be ready. If they need to go to a different datacenter, you’ll be ready. If you need more infrastructure to run them in more places ... you get the idea. Consider setting up a shadow infrastructure next to your VMware cluster, preferably one that is more nimble, requires less overhead, and doesn’t cost almost as much as a real piece of hardware to deploy another instance.

6. Inventory the key parts of your infrastructure that are cloud-capable

Determine which of your solutions have a SaaS version and which can be deployed in the cloud. Create a replacement plan for any key infrastructure that can’t be moved.

7. Have a backup/recovery plan for your cloud infrastructure

It's unlikely that will go out of business anytime soon, but even the company thinks you should back up your own data. Your backups need to be more useful than a binary blob to restore to the SaaS. Let’s say you need a key piece of data and the third-party vendor can’t figure out how to get at it; you should have a fallback even if it means searching through a file the old-fashioned way. Also, mergers and acquisitions happen -- if the price increases, you should be able to move and know the transition costs up front.

8. Cultivate a reputation as an approachable, open-minded problem solver

Don't be the IT bureaucrat trying to stop the business from having nice things. Sometimes this means having that extra face-to-face meeting, understanding what the person is trying to do, and helping them find the right solution. Listen first and completely.

9. Start thinking cloud-first

When a new application or capability comes up, think about how you might be able to do it with a SaaS or cloud solution, rather than dream about the hardware you might be ordering.

In the end, there will be the people in IT who jumped on this, helped the business move forward, and thus had the best knowledge and experience in the new cloudy world -- and there will be the people who were rendered redundant. Let’s make 2017 the year you made yourself essential for the future.