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What is an Enterprise Cloud?
The term “Enterprise Cloud” seems to be used universally, and unfortunately, a bit loosely. Everything, it seems, is “enterprise ready”. But, what does it really mean to be an Enterprise Cloud?
Let’s start with a few definitions that will help us in our evaluation of the terms “enterprise cloud” and to ensure we’re all operating from the same page (with credit to Merriam Webster):
Enterprise – a unit of economic organization or activity; especially: a business organization
Individual – of, relating to, or existing as just one member or part of a larger group
Consumer – a person who buys goods and services
Compromise – the act or practice of each side giving up something in order to reach an agreement
Most of us in our daily lives consume cloud services—our personal e-mail, storage for our photos, our music collection, etc. We, as individuals, consume cloud services, and we adapt our personal processes, even our lifestyles, around the functionality and capabilities of the cloud services we are using. If it doesn’t work the way we like, we have little to no control over what Google, Apple, or Amazon provides. We adapt to the cloud. No compromises.
Enterprise Cloud is not like that. Enterprise cloud serves the broader needs of the Enterprise and should be aligned with the objectives of the Enterprise—whether it be optimization, innovation, or transformation. Yet, if the cloud doesn’t serve the needs of the individuals, it won’t be used. In the interest of serving the broader needs of the Enterprise, there will be conflicting requirements and differing priorities at all levels and across business units. Resolution of these conflicts will need to consider the usefulness to the individuals who are expected to use the services of the cloud, balanced with the needs of the Enterprise. In short, compromises abound.
The needs of the enterprise will change and not every enterprise needs the same things. In a truly enterprise cloud deployment there will be many use cases across many user communities. To serve the diverse needs of the many, the Enterprise Cloud must be able to consume services, broker them, integrate them, and expose them for different types of consumers. It cannot stand alone. The Enterprise Cloud must be adaptable and integrated. To do so, it must be architected to scale, not only/necessarily in terms of how big it can be, but in the spectrum of different use cases it can support while remaining sustainably manageable. If your cloud needs a lot of care and feeding to support its mission, it isn’t really enterprise ready.
In a consumer cloud, the actions of one generally only affect the individual (your photos are lost, your email has a virus, your music stops playing—but, everything and everyone else goes along just fine). In the Enterprise Cloud, the actions of anyone have the potential to impact everyone else and the Enterprise as a whole. To support the mission of the Enterprise, to protect the enterprise it serves, the Enterprise Cloud will need to integrate into the technology and governance fabric of the Enterprise, and potentially to the ecosystems in which the Enterprise participates. Comprehensive governance and control is needed so that it can be extended to incorporate services consumed and services provided.
The key point here is this: Enterprise Cloud is the deployment of IT services to be consumed by many entities with many different needs. This creates a need to focus on adaptability of the cloud to the needs of the enterprise, in consideration of the needs of the users, prioritized on the broader objectives of the Enterprise. The ability to compromise is essentially a design point, and the Enterprise Cloud is designed in the context of all that surrounds it. With that, I offer the following Guiding Principles of what makes a cloud truly an Enterprise Cloud.
- Because it must be capable of integrating into the Enterprise it supports and the ecosystem the Enterprise lives in, the Enterprise Cloud is Open – not just running on open source, but actually implementing open technologies to consume services and to provide services to be consumed.
- The Enterprise Cloud must scale, not just/only in terms of how big it can be, but how it can adapt to different use cases, multiple types of users, with different needs and expectations.
- In an Enterprise Cloud, data has value beyond the use of the individual and must be protected from loss, corruption, and outright theft. There will be more concern over the geographical location of data, so the Enterprise Cloud must support precise location of data, with visibility. The Enterprise Cloud recognizes the importance of data as an asset to the enterprise, not just the individual.
- While it may interface to the public Internet, the Enterprise Cloud must be capable of deployment onto private networks, integrated with corporate wide area networks.
- The Enterprise Cloud provides for authentication, authorization and auditability, but it must be integrated with existing systems. In larger deployments sophisticated access controls and tracking is required, often integrated to existing systems (i.e. Identity Management). In the Enterprise Cloud you must have auditability to know who did what, and when, on behalf of the Enterprise.
- While an individual, especially personal consumer of cloud services, may not be subject to third party certifications, almost every enterprise faces at least one type of compliance audit requirement. Processes and controls must be documented and auditable and capable of being validated against compliance requirements. The Enterprise Cloud must be capable of meeting compliance audit requirements.
- The Enterprise Cloud is able to monitor and meter usage. Whether it is used for chargeback or showback depends on what the enterprise is trying to accomplish, but in the enterprise cloud you need to be able to see how the various entities are using the cloud services, how they are impacting each other, and be able to plan accordingly.
- To create a scalable solution, The Enterprise Cloud makes liberal use of reusable patterns of automation. An Enterprise Cloud scales without adding more people and manual processes.
- The Enterprise Cloud contributes to the productivity of many, and if there are failures in the services rendered, the productivity of many may be impacted. Support services are foundational to success of the Enterprise Cloud.
- To be sustainable, the technology components of the Enterprise Cloud must individually be supported and supportable. Availability of skilled resources, product maturity, and vendor support are fundamental to sustainability of the Enterprise Cloud.
What are your thoughts? You can provide your feedback using the comments feature below.
Note: Here’s a link to a good article on this topic, where some of these concepts came from.