Flying in the Cloud by the Seat of Our Pants

By Chris Harding, The Open Group

In the early days of aviation, when instruments were unreliable or non-existent, pilots often had to make judgments by instinct. This was known as “flying by the seat of your pants.” It was exciting, but error prone, and accidents were frequent. Today, enterprises are in that position with Cloud Computing.

Staying On Course

Flight navigation does not end with programming the flight plan. The navigator must check throughout the flight that the plane is on course.  Successful use of Cloud requires, not only an understanding of what it can do for the business, but also continuous monitoring that it is delivering value as expected. A change of service-level, for example, can have as much effect on a user enterprise as a change of wind speed on an aircraft.

The Open Group conducted a Cloud Return on Investment (ROI) survey in 2011. Then, 55 percent of those surveyed felt that Cloud ROI would be easy to evaluate and justify, although only 35 percent had mechanisms in place to do it. When we repeated the survey in 2012, we found that the proportion that thought it would be easy had gone down to 44 percent, and only 20 percent had mechanisms in place. This shows, arguably, more realism, but it certainly doesn’t show any increased tendency to monitor the value delivered by Cloud. In fact, it shows the reverse. The enterprise pilots are flying by the seats of their pants. (The full survey results are available at http://www.opengroup.org/sites/default/files/contentimages/Documents/cloud_roi_formal_report_12_19_12-1.pdf)

They Have No Instruments

It is hard to blame the pilots for this, because they really do not have the instruments. The Open Group published a book in 2011, Cloud Computing for Business, that explains how to evaluate and monitor Cloud risk and ROI, with spreadsheet examples. The spreadsheet is pretty much the state-of-the-art in Cloud ROI instrumentation.  Like a compass, it is robust and functional at a basic level, but it does not have the sophistication and accuracy of a satellite navigation system. If we want better navigation, we must have better systems.

There is scope for Enterprise Architecture tool vendors to fill this need. As the inclusion of Cloud in Enterprise Architectures becomes commonplace, and Cloud Computing metrics and their relation to ROI become better understood, it should be possible to develop the financial components of Enterprise Architecture modeling tools so that the business impact of the Cloud systems can be seen more clearly.

The Enterprise Flight Crew

But this is not just down to the architects. The architecture is translated into systems by developers, and the systems are operated by operations staff. All of these people must be involved in the procurement and configuration of Cloud services and their monitoring through the Cloud buyers’ life cycle.

Cloud is already bringing development and operations closer together. The concept of DevOps, a paradigm that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and IT operations professionals, is increasingly being adopted by enterprises that use Cloud Computing. This communication, collaboration and integration must involve – indeed must start with – enterprise architects, and it must include the establishment and monitoring of Cloud ROI models. All of these professionals must co-operate to ensure that the Cloud-enabled enterprise keeps to its financial course.

The Architect as Pilot

The TOGAF® architecture development method includes a phase (Phase G) in which the architects participate in implementation governance. The following Phase H is currently devoted to architecture change management, with the objectives of ensuring that the architecture lifecycle is maintained, the architecture governance framework is executed, and the Enterprise Architecture capability meets current requirements. Perhaps Cloud architects should also think about ensuring that the system meets its business requirements, and continues to do so throughout its operation. They can then revisit earlier phases of the architecture development cycle (always a possibility in TOGAF) if it does not.

Flying the Cloud

Cloud Computing compresses the development lifecycle, cutting the time to market of new products and the time to operation of new enterprise systems. This is a huge benefit. It implies closer integration of architecture, development and operations. But this must be supported by proper instrumentation of the financial parameters of Cloud services, so that the architecture, development and operations professionals can keep the enterprise on course.

Flying by the seat of the pants must have been a great experience for the magnificent men in the flying machines of days gone by, but no one would think of taking that risk with the lives of 500 passengers on a modern aircraft. The business managers of a modern enterprise should not have to take that risk either. We must develop standard Cloud metrics and ROI models, so that they can have instruments to measure success.

Dr. Chris Harding is Director for Interoperability and SOA at The Open Group. He has been with The Open Group for more than ten years, and is currently responsible for managing and supporting its work on interoperability, including SOA and interoperability aspects of Cloud Computing. He is a member of the BCS, the IEEE and the AEA, and is a certified TOGAF practitioner.

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