There is currently a lot of attention being focused on Cloud Computing, but what does this mean in practical terms? HP's definition of Cloud Computing is in terms of globally available, scalable, and flexible services, which can be subscribed to on a pay per use basis. Given this definition, the Cloud is just one source of IT services amongst a range of others, either insourced or outsourced. The key issue here is the move towards muliti-sourced IT environments, where some services are provided in-house, some from a range of infrastructure, application and business process suppliers, and some from the cloud, as service availability grows.
So, how should enterprises prepare for the transition to such a model? The first step is to review the IT strategy in the light of business needs; fundamentally, which capabilities need to be kept in-house as business critical, which are better suited to specialist providers, and which lend themselves to the pay per use Cloud treatement? These consideration should be made in conjuction with an exercise to consolidate and simplify an IT landscape, to reduce operational costs and free up investment for business focused inititiatives. Such an approach requires transition to a model of IT provision based upon services, with a governance model, IT management processes and architectural standards that support the management of service lifecycles from multiple providers. ITIL is an established source for such service management processes, whereas an enterprise architecture based upon service-oriented principles is key for guiding technical decisions in support of business needs (see TOGAF, The Open Group Architectural Framework).
A key challenge in a multi-sourced envrionment is monitoring and managing the performance of services across service provider boundaries. One possible approach is to use HP's Cloud Assure services, which are themselves based on a range of Software as a Service IT management offerings. Cloud Assure can be used in conjuction with service providers to monitor key performance parameters via a dashboard on a pay per use basis.
Considerations of trust and security are also critical to the acceptance of multi-source service provision. Cloud Assure includes the capability to analyse security vulnerablities associated with IT services from whatever source. However, other issues around compliance to data protection and privacy legislation, such as ascertaining the physical location of data and associated legal jurasdiction, will require specific guarantees from service providers.