Check in with pretty much any IT decision maker at a large organization, and chances are that one of their big strategic priorities of the last few years has been crafting and executing a cloud strategy.
From many perspectives, it makes sense. For one thing, managing infrastructure is hard. And pretty much everyone except Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM lack the resources to do it right. Paying one or many of them to run your infrastructure is, as so many companies have concluded, a good use of people and attention.
When you pick a cloud vendor, you’re applying the same logic you do when you use FedEx or UPS to deliver a package. Why buy your own fleet of delivery planes and trucks when the delivery experts already have them? That is unless doing so gives you some kind of competitive advantage. Most of the time, it doesn’t.
This is why you shouldn’t spend too much time, effort or energy on mapping out a cloud strategy. While it’s certainly a great enabling technology that will make life easier on many fronts, the cloud should not be considered a core competency in and of itself. It’s just something that’s going to happen over time.
Eventually you’ll be running a combination of cloud and on-premise systems. Basically they’re “pizza boxes” that you own, or which someone else owns. When the thought occurs to you that something is running in the cloud that didn’t before your immediate thought is going to be “of course.” If it’s not like that for you already, it will be soon.
So, if not a cloud strategy, what should you be thinking about instead? The data itself. How are you going to manage it seamlessly across mixed infrastructure? And how will you apply security and governance policies to all of it?
You should also be thinking about the many ways you’re going to derive value from your data, and how all of those ways should work equally well across cloud vendors. For one thing, you’ll want and need common data governance and security policies applied to the data, no matter where it resides. And when you decide it’s time to add cloud vendors to your global data management system, consider whether or not will your ability to work with your data will change. Spend your time thinking about ways to avoid getting locked in with a particular vendor.
A data strategy must be flexible in order to meet both your current and future needs. The total amount of data you have will expand and new data sources emerge, and the number of things you’ll want to use the data for will likely increase as well. When choosing vendors for your enterprise data strategy, you should expect that they can deal with all of your cloud infrastructure, now and into the future.
A good litmus test is to ask prospective vendors a few simple questions: Can I manage data in a secure and governed way on the infrastructure that I own and/or lease? Can the infrastructure accommodate both future data growth and an evolving series of needs that will become more complex over time?
The answer to both questions from any cloud vendor better be an unambiguous “yes.” And their most important job will be to prove it to you every single day. Let them taken on these worries so you don’t have to lose sleep over them.
This is also a point where the open source community can be an indispensable resource. These are important decisions and perspective and advice from people who’ve wrestled with the same problems before you is important. The community is filled with experts who live and breathe the tough questions around data, and who pride themselves on banding together to solve problems. It’s a community you can lean on.
The bottom line: Don’t waste energy on merely crafting a cloud strategy: The cloud is a commodity that should just work. The smart strategy is to get good help and to get involved with the open source community. We help customers who find themselves at various stages of this process every day, and usually it comes down to helping them find the right partners. Once you’ve done that, you can focus your energy on what matters most: Getting value from your data to drive your business forward.