Saturday, July 2, 2016

10 Secrets of Cloud Architecture

Over the past year or so, the demand for Cloud Architecture has soared. This can be assessed simply by looking at requirements for full-time or contract positions related to Cloud Architecture. Even those IT Architecture roles not directly defined as being Cloud Architecture often now tend to include Cloud related qualifications. So, one has to wonder, why the recent upsurge in activity? And by the way, what does Cloud Architecture really represent these days? I'll try to answer this with a list of secret insights from an Architect on the front lines - and if not secrets - at least with unique perspectives:

Secret 1 - Cloud Architecture has morphed into a holistic field that encompasses not just AWS, Azure, Rackspace etc. features, but nearly all considerations faced by IT. It is now the new enterprise architecture - the traditional internal environment is just one of many which must be managed across a variety of barriers in a logically consistent manner.

Secret 2 - There is no such thing as a hybrid Cloud anymore. Nearly all IT environments have elements of internal and external cloud capability (e.g. any infrastructure group that uses virtualization can qualify, whether they have elastic computing or not. Also, most private Cloud frameworks are externally managed anyway). It is now simply a Cloud or Enterprise Framework.

Secret 3 - Cloud is not just Infrastructure. The days of thinking of Cloud as the IaaS or PaaS or even SaaS are mostly gone.  This has profound implications in regards to who should manage Cloud capability and how. To borrow a phrase from Data Architecture - Cloud capabilities represent "Enterprise Assets" and can no longer be managed in silos by individual IT service groups or business units.

Secret 4 - Yes, you need a Cloud Strategy. While it may sound obvious now, remarkably it hasn't been and still isn't in many quarters. This ties neatly with the enterprise data analogy but in reality also involves enterprise data, enterprise security an much more. I will talk more about Cloud Strategy in another post.

Secret 5 - The Cloud allows you to fail fast, take advantage of that. There are things that we can do with the Cloud at a fraction of the cost it would have taken to do even 5 years ago. The Cloud allows for much more rapid deployment and adjustment than traditional IT, but to take advantage of that, one has to acknowledge it in how new capability is approached. One way to do that, is to use part of your Cloud framework specifically to assess capability - an Innovation Lab of sorts. I will address this in a future post.

Secret 6 - The Cloud introduces new cost paradigms which need to be fully thought through in order to take advantage of. This is another good reason for the strategy. Not everything on the Cloud is cheaper, there needs to be serious consideration given on how to leverage existing licensing and equipment with oncoming Cloud capabilities.

Secret 7 - There will always be more than one Cloud to deal with. As great as AWS is in introducing more services than we ever thought possible, there will likely always be a legitimate need to include other Cloud offerings in your portfolio; whether it is Google, Azure or some SaaS solution or new capability that hasn't been released yet. And btw - there is no such thing as a Cloud portfolio - it's just your Portfolio - which from now on will include Cloud capability.

Secret 8 - To be a Cloud Architect, you in fact have to be an IT Architect. So, for example, if you want to be a good AWS Architect, you must understand; Networking technologies and concepts, Identity & Access Management, Devops, Server Management, Storage Management, Virtual Desktops and more. Specializing in AWS in fact makes one quite the generalist.

Secret 9 - To be a true Cloud Architect, one must have experience with multiple Cloud offerings. While the technologies and concepts are often similar, this extends the generalist notion even further.

Secret 10 - Cloud Architecture has infiltrated most other areas of architecture. Let's say you're an MDM architect looking to deploy Informatica, Infosphere, Stibo, Talend or some other MDM tool. In every case, there are now Cloud related aspects to the deployment options. Eventually every Architect will gain some Cloud familiarity whether they want to or not.

As I said, perhaps these insights aren't trade secrets, but taken together they represent an interesting new paradigm that not just architects have to contend with. Today's Cloud represents both a logical progression of key technologies as well as aggregation of those in new ways. The enterprise processes and practice to define, design and manage this new Cloud paradigm has somewhat lagged behind the capability. Cloud Architects will help lead the way in closing this gap.

copyright 2016, Stephen Lahanas