Who manages the Cloud? TDL’s GM of Transformation Services, Damian Zammit, talks to Computerworld about this topic

Understanding who manages the cloud

Choosing a cloud managed partner means understanding the long-term requirements for managing the environment

As organisations become increasingly comfortable with the idea of the cloud, more of them are adopting various cloud-based services and moving more of their data and workloads into the cloud. This helps provide flexibility, agility, and in many cases, cost savings. However, in some cases it also leads to confusion regarding who is responsible for the organisation’s IT environment.

When organisations move to the cloud, they expect it to automatically work like any other utility such as electricity or water. However, cloud-based services are complex and often involve multiple vendors, partners, and other third parties. Without specific agreements and forward planning, this makes it difficult to understand who is taking responsibility for what.

It’s important for organisations to realise that, just because a partner has helped facilitate the migration to the cloud doesn’t mean that partner will manage the cloud environment ongoing. Even if there is a managed service in place, the partner could be managing none, all, or just a component of the cloud environment.

This becomes a problem for organisations that elect to move to the cloud but have the mindset that the migration is similar to a data centre refresh. They believe that the process is a so-called ‘lift-and-shift’, and that the provider who manages that process will manage every aspect of the migration including providing ongoing management and support. The reality is often very different.

For example, moving to the cloud requires significant amounts of work regarding security and access management. The cloud has a completely different architecture compared with an on-premises environment, necessitating different approaches to elements such as security, network and capacity.

To avoid confusion and ensure businesses are getting maximum value from cloud deployments, it’s important to understand who is responsible for what and how to get support when needed. For example, if an outage occurs, it’s critical to know whom to call. If a company moves to the cloud and coincidentally, their cloud provider has an outage that same day, the company may contact its partner expecting a resolution when in fact, the issue lies with the cloud provider (e.g. AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform). However, the pressure is often on partners to solve problems that are not theirs to own.

Choosing a cloud managed partner means understanding the long-term requirements for managing the environment. For example, if it’s just a matter of managing the Azure environment, then it’s a simple task. But, if the organisation needs an application provider, third party or other partner to manage the applications and data as part of the Azure deployment, then the requirement becomes more complex and a detailed responsibility assignment matrix and supporting contracts will need to be agreed upon before the cloud migration project takes place.

Each organisation will have different requirements based on in-house resources and expertise. The strategy starts with the CIO, then falls onto the IT operations team to understand who will take ownership for each aspect of the cloud environment. Ideally, organisations will have a third-party partner to act as a service desk. That third party will understand all the moving pieces and be able to triage and manage issues for the customer appropriately.

It can also be useful to have a dedicated resolution team in place whose responsibility it is to troubleshoot problems as they arise. That’s a paid service but can be extremely useful especially in complex environments and for businesses that can’t afford downtime.

Before moving to the cloud, organisations need to have a plan that includes the partner(s) it will use, the roadmap to the cloud, and the partners involved once the cloud migration is complete. By following a plan-build-run methodology, organisations may be able to avoid some of the confusion and disarray that can come with not understanding who is really managing their cloud.

Damian Zammit is general manager at Thomas Duryea Logicalis and an executive council member for CompTIA.

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