Because leveraging cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offers numerous business advantages, it’s a natural evolution for many organizations. Companies of all sizes are choosing to host their infrastructure in the cloud so they can focus their staff on business priorities, fuel top-line growth, increase agility, reduce capital expenses, and pay for only what they need on demand. And the timing couldn’t be better as CIOs are increasingly brokers of IT services in response to C-Level pressure to support business growth, reduce cost, and improve IT services and IT security.

However, organizations can choose from multiple options when migrating their infrastructure to the cloud, making it challenging — and often overwhelming — to determine the right option for their business. This article outlines why a growing number of companies are transitioning their infrastructure to the cloud, and provides guidance on making the most fitting choice for your organization.

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Most businesses would like to reduce the complexity of their IT infrastructure and scale their IT capabilities to accommodate changing business requirements. But that’s challenging in today’s world characterized by an incredibly diverse and ever-expanding range of applications, devices, and operating systems. Many organizations lack the highly skilled IT workforce to keep such an environment running without fail. Even if they do employ such IT personnel, it makes far more sense to focus them on strategic revenue-generating initiatives than on routine system implementation and maintenance.

To address these concerns, businesses of all sizes are now considering cloud hosting. Outsourcing the routine maintenance of IT infrastructure and platforms is an ideal way to refocus skilled IT resources and scarce IT budgets on more strategic business-building projects.

In fact, perhaps more than any other technology innovation of the past 15 years, cloud services offer the most promise when it comes to aligning IT with business goals. So it should come as no surprise that, going forward, cloud will feature largely within the IT strategies of many businesses.



But cloud isn’t just a passing trend impacting some companies; it’s a pervasive shift in how businesses operate. Even organizations that don’t depend on mobile users, hardware, and apps can benefit today from the cloud in the following ways:

  • Reduce complexity by moving infrastructure components and management processes from a multi-silo infrastructure to resource pools that can be managed as units instead of one machine at a time.
  • Dramatically reduce costs, maximizing resource utilization by pooling, automating operations processes, and using public cloud services where appropriate.
  • Deliver and scale IT services flexibly — regardless of where they are sourced or delivered — using policy-driven automation and self-service.



As an IT leader, you likely know that cloud hosting and services can satisfy both business and IT priorities. However, you may still struggle to determine the optimal choice for your organization. Specifically, you probably wonder whether you should opt for a public or private cloud, and if a public cloud, which version.

If so, you are right to carefully weigh your options. According to Gartner, “The rush to cloud computing without a cohesive strategy is resulting in cloud silos that reduce efficiency and effectiveness.”

Let’s start by defining private cloud hosting and public cloud hosting.

Private cloud utilizes dedicated resources in the cloud to create a virtual IT environment, and can be integrated with your organization’s on-premise virtual and physical servers. In essence, your organization would own and operate this environment even though you pay a third-party for the cloud space and resources. The upside is that you maintain control over security, compliance, and other sensitive areas. The downside is that your business would need to invest significant resources both initially and over time to maintain the environment, and may find it difficult to quickly scale as needed to support changing needs.

With public cloud hosting, your organization offloads all implementation, operation, and maintenance of all or some hardware and software to a third-party provider. This is especially valuable if your business is increasingly challenged in procuring and managing its IT infrastructure. Though you would share the service with other hosting customers, you gain the utmost flexibility in accessing and upgrading your infrastructure.



Now that we’ve outlined the main differences between public and private cloud, we’ll walk through how you assess your IT and business priorities to determine which cloud model makes the most sense.

Some of the key factors to consider when evaluating cloud models are performance SLAs, flexibility, management, complexity, and cost. Selecting the right model for each application you want to host in the cloud is a tradeoff between these factors (Figure 1).

Business strategy drives cloud selection

FIGURE 1. Business strategy drives cloud selection.

Examples of the tradeoff scenarios are as follows:

  • For certain mission-critical applications that are highly complex and require the highest performance SLAs, a traditional data center might be the best option. However, that option is the most expensive, and requires the most in-house management while offering the least amount of flexibility.
  • If you run less complex applications and desire maximum flexibility, lowest cost, and a fully managed solution, the public cloud presents the best options.
  • Applications that require more privacy in a non-shared environment with better economics and more flexibility are best suited for a private cloud environment.

You can elect to employ all three models to support different types of applications with varying requirements. In other words, you may choose to take a balanced approach, opting to maintain some applications in house while hosting others in the cloud.



If your organization is interested in the public cloud, it should seek a solution provider that can offer the basics of availability, security and flexibility as listed in Table 1, at a minimum.

public cloud offering

TABLE 1. What to seek in a public cloud offering.

From there, your organization can then choose between traditional and consumption-based hosting. Typically, traditional hosting is best for organizations with a small number of virtual machines (VMs), while consumption-based is ideal for organizations with a larger number of VMs, allowing them to optimize resources for cost efficiencies across their IT environment. A good rule of thumb is that businesses with 20+ servers, multiple business units, and a team of five or more highly skilled IT folks are prime candidates for consumption-based hosting.

A consumption-based solution should include all of the above plus the ability to do the following at a minimum:

  • Track and manage computing consumption across business units and scale up or down as needed. Ideally you will work with a provider that helps you calculate your baseline computing capacity, and determine when to burst that capacity to accommodate demand.
  • Pool resources to reduce the cost of server sprawl.
  • Make it possible for different divisions to manage their applications through one portal.
  • Empower IT teams to maintain total control through an administrator portal.
  • Connect to the network via various options in addition to the public internet. These options should include private multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and a secure, remote access virtual private network (VPN) that allow for physical and logical separation or both public and private virtual environments and isolation of private workloads with customizable security settings.



Many IT leaders want to take advantage of the incredible efficiencies inherent in cloud virtualization, but still want to maintain visibility and control over their IT infrastructure.

This includes the desire to or need for:

  • Move on-premises hardware to the cloud and manage it themselves
  • Move an on-premises virtualized environment to the cloud and maintain control
  • Extend their on-premises virtualized private environment to the cloud, and manage the entire virtualized environment through a single interface
  • A larger number of virtual machines (VMs), especially 10 or more VMs.
  • A private environment with dedicated resources.

If your organization has these requirements, it should seek a private cloud provided via dedicated resources that enable you to maintain security and privacy policies and complete control over your own cloud environment. The ideal solution allows you to extend your on-premise virtualized private environment to the cloud, and manage your entire environment through a single interface. It should also include software for centralized management and control across on-premises and cloud-hosted infrastructure. In addition, it should offer the same list of standard features as a public cloud listed in table Table 1, at a minimum.

storage service levels

TABLE 2. What to seek in storage service levels.



As your business seeks to build efficient IT infrastructure that responds to your dynamic environment, your choice in cloud storage and data management is no small decision. And because your organization’s choice of cloud model is largely dependent on application needs, it’s critical that the cloud offering is supported by the appropriate storage service levels. Regardless of what kind of cloud model(s) your business chooses, storage services are a key consideration because data lives on storage. Capacity isn’t the key issue; it’s the right combination of price and performance for a given application workload. With that in mind, look for a cloud provider that offers a set of storage service levels with a range of price and performance fitting to the application.

In addition, make sure the provider offers choices of storage service levels featuring the following:

  • On-demand scalability to keep applications running
  • Snapshots to provide crash-consistent local and/or offline backup
  • Available off-site backup and/or disaster recovery replication
  • Very high availability without disruption due to maintenance/upgrades



While it’s no small undertaking to consider a move to the cloud, the question isn’t whether your organization should move to the cloud — it’s how to successfully make the move. Ultimately the outcome hinges on choosing the cloud provider with the offerings that best serve your organization’s IT and business requirements. Use the guidelines in this article to make the right choice — and elevate the position of IT within your company.



Gartner Inc. “How to Select the Right Cloud Management Platform” July, 23 2012.

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