Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is a style of IT enabled capabilities that are delivered as a cloud service model for organizations. IaaS is understood as equivalent to a private data center or scalable IT infrastructure service which can be accessed using internet technologies. Large organizations such as government, enterprise businesses, and especially SMBs stand to gain from IaaS due to its scalability and other immense benefits such as on-demand self-service, self-provisioning, measured access, broad network access, rapid elasticity and centralization of data and applications to mention a few.
IaaS service models offer complete IT infrastructure services (compute, storage, network and software) that can run platforms and applications across a variety of operating environments. Other important benefits of IaaS include,
- Reduced cost on hardware and resources
- Security and interoperability of data
- Portability of applications across platforms
- Dependency across a wide range of networks
For instance, enterprises often face the challenge investing in IT sources and infrastructure for handling economies of scale as the business grows and expands into new markets. Cloud computing IaaS models offered by data centers is a viable environment for enterprise organizations through which the challenges related to managing IT infrastructure are easily overcome.
According to Earnest & Young report titled Cloud Adoption in India surveying SMBs on cloud services adoption around 55% of SMBs have indicated their readiness for cloud based storage services which is a capability of IaaS. Gartner Research on cloud computing services adoption worldwide explains that, enterprises planning for IaaS deployment must make sure they develop strategies using bimodal approach. Mode 1 explains on reliability (in terms of infrastructure to support business efficiently, innovations) and Mode 2 on agility (adapt and scale up or down automatically to changing business scenarios).
In spite of the value proposition offered by cloud service providers, it is highly essential on the part of organizations to develop an appropriate business case to deploy an IaaS model based on their unique business operating circumstances and requirements. Some important IaaS adoption strategies to consider are:
Use a bimodal approach: Organizations must first question themselves on what exactly they need from cloud IaaS. The bimodal approach is highly essential for any business because business companies need two things – maximum business agility and greater efficiency. Greater efficiency falls under mode 1 and business agility in mode 2. Though, mode 1 will help to achieve agility by incremental improvements, mode 2 will result in efficiency gains. The priorities of reliability and agility are different in organizations and hence IaaS strategies should be developed by considering both the modes. For instance, Mode 1 eliminates the need for personnel in routine IT operations, improves provisioning time and reduces hardware cost. Likewise, mode 2 enables quick delivery of applications, enhances digital business capabilities, exploit new business opportunities, provision resources rapidly and so on. Hence, organizations planning for adoption should consider this bimodal approach for adopting cloud IaaS.
Develop a cloud IaaS strategy: The cloud IaaS strategy must clearly highlight the investments made on technology. This must be tied to line of business (LOB) goals and should have management buy-in. The strategy must explain cloud IaaS benefits and expected outcomes across all functional areas in the organization. Strategies will consider points such as implementation plan (long-term, short-term), identifying workloads that can be moved to cloud, defining security and related systems such as disaster recovery, defining how users can access the infrastructure, that includes mobile strategy, monitoring the performance of IaaS and finally articulate how IT will effectively handle business process requirements and service requests to enhance business relationships.
Enhance Application life cycle: Infrastructure serves applications, developers and users alike. In this strategy the approach should incorporate infrastructure into the application lifecycle as opposed to managing only the infrastructure. The tools and methods of DevOps focus on continuous integration and continuous deployment to result in the integration of infrastructure automation along the entire application life cycle. IaaS also offers storage and network capabilities along with load balancing in addition to compute environments. Therefore, with initial provisioning cloud IaaS strategy must focus on ongoing upgrades, applications maintenance and release cycles. A more comprehensive strategy can include platform level services such as database and other middleware services.
Critical considerations: Business enterprises when transitioning to cloud IaaS need to consider certain critical aspects such as,
- Specific business areas that are appropriate for cloud IaaS
- Evaluating services offered by cloud vendors or data centers
- Specific SLAs related to performance indicators of IaaS, risks, security, etc.
- Monitoring performance and measuring IaaS usage from the organization’s perspective
- Benchmarks for evaluating application performance in the data center
- Understanding on how resources are pooled within the data center
- Broader operational and cultural implications due to IaaS adoption
Cloud IaaS offers a viable environment to better align IT with key business goals and initiatives at reduced costs. The strategies outlined here are intended to help enterprises while planning to adopt cloud IaaS service to overcome infrastructural management challenges in rapidly changing business scenarios.