By Tim Malfara, Anexinet

When architecting a cloud computing environment, IT departments must take into consideration the business and technical requirements of their organization and the industry best practices established by professional organizations and standards bodies.  The best practices are a handy guide, but they need to be tempered with real-world experience and the unique needs of your company.  What works for a payment processing company will likely not be the case for a healthcare firm.

The best way to achieve a successful cloud architecture is to have a firm grasp on what is most important to your organization.  As you make decisions about a cloud environment, you need to consider what the best practice is and refine that through the lens of your company.  The best way to do that is to talk to the folks outside of IT to understand how technology could make them more productive, and balance that feedback with what is required to stay compliant and secure.

To borrow from AWS’ taxonomy, cloud architecture can be broken into security, performance, reliability, cost optimization, and operational excellence.  Each element presents a set of trade-offs between the other elements.  For instance, in order to make something more secure, your costs usually go up.  Trying to reduce costs down to a bare minimum may impact the performance and reliability of your application.  The AWS whitepapers present good starting points for achieving each goal, and the ideas can be abstracted to any public cloud or even your on-premises datacenter.

The two things IT should never do are design the cloud architecture in a vacuum and consider that architecture design complete.  As mentioned, the IT department needs the input of the rest of the organization to help design an architecture that makes people more productive and drives the company toward its goals.  Since the public cloud is constantly changing and new features and services come online daily, IT cannot consider a cloud architecture as complete.  They need to constantly revisit the architecture to look for improvements and required changes based on new information and offerings.

One of the biggest mistakes IT departments make when it comes to the public cloud is treating their cloud architecture like it is simply another datacenter.  While you can absolutely lift and shift workloads and use the public cloud as an additional datacenter, by doing so you are missing out on the advanced features available in the cloud.  Things like platform-as-a-service, extensive automation, and on-demand capacity are part of what makes the cloud so attractive.

Finally, there’s no reason to go it alone when you are planning your cloud architecture.  Microsoft and AWS have extensive whitepapers and guides to help establish a solid set of best practices.  Offerings like AWS Landing Zone and Azure Blueprints help lay down a governance and management framework to get you started.  Reaching out to a consultant to map out your architecture and strategy is also a good idea.  By finding someone who has experience in design and deployment, you can avoid the common pitfalls and save yourself a lot of headaches as your organization adopts the cloud.

About the Author

Tim Malfara is Vice President, Hybrid IT and Cloud Services at Anexinet