Why high-performance IT needs the cloud done right

Building a High-Performance IT capability within your organisation has immense benefits. It allows you to innovate at speed, accelerate growth and unlock business agility.

However, you can only become a high performer if you manage your cloud environment effectively. That was the main message of our latest DevOps Discussed webinar, which took place on October 15th.

Titled “Why high-performance IT needs Cloud done right”, it was comprised of Cloud Services Product Manager Rael Winters, Senior DevOps Consultant James Reed and Senior Cloud Consultant Colin Barker.

During an interactive, one-hour session, they explored the five essential characteristics of cloud computing, what “cloud native” really means, different cloud migration options, and building a high-performance infrastructure and operations practice.

Here are some of the key points that came up in the discussion.

Exploit the full feature set

To build a high-performing IT capability, you need more than just a highly capable cloud platform. The focus shouldn’t be placed on simply using cloud technology, but the way in which you implement cloud infrastructure across your organisation.

As the 2018 Accelerate State of DevOps Report shows, teams that embrace cloud characteristics such as on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured service are 23 times more likely to be elite performers.

These capabilities must be exposed to product teams and used throughout the application development process. At the design phase, you need to exploit the entire cloud feature set and build it into the functionality of your applications. James made the point that these features should be in the hands of the people who can use them.

Start with Infrastructure as Code

When it comes to using and building applications in the cloud, Infrastructure as Code is foundational. It’s the gateway to containers, PaaS, cloud native, rapid elasticity, self-service and developer enablement.

If you’re not doing Infrastructure as Code, start; if you are, do more. But you need to make sure that you’re also managing your infrastructure as code in the same way as you would application code, which means using having source control in place.

“You’re moving your infrastructure into, essentially, text-based format that can be placed, re-posted and version-controlled. For me, this is a foundational enabler to doing everything else. Before you get into containers, PaaS and cloud native, start with the IaC level,” recommended Colin.

Rael described Infrastructure as Code as a foundational investment. With it, he believes that organisations can reap the rewards offered by cloud technology and kickstart the journey to High-Performance IT.

Safety nets, not controls

Cloud also requires a new way of thinking, according to the panel. Operations needs to be focused on enablement rather than control. But at the same time, it must continue to own the concept of protecting the business.

This is a shift from control mechanisms to safety nets. Operations should empower teams to achieve their goals, but step in when, or ideally just before, anything starts go wrong. Rael noted that there’s an increasing number of tools that can help here.

James’ view is that the role of operations teams is to provide safety nets, best practices and technical support. Meanwhile, Colin said additional visibility can help you establish these best practices. “Teams need to be more self-managed and empowered to do their jobs to the best of their ability,” he commented.

Products, not projects

That mindset shift becomes easier when organisations focus on products instead of projects. Teams that have long-lasting ownership of the services they develop have greater motivation and support for acting responsibly.

Product teams should be long-running, multi-disciplinary, empowered and autonomous, while bridging the gap between development and operations. James explained that product teams can build and run the code, with operations providing safety nets. But the nuances of how you implement this model are dependent on the size of your organisation

We still need Ops

For your product teams to succeed, it’s important to think about the mechanisms required to protect and support them. The panel made it clear that you still need operations and infrastructure – both within and outside your product teams.

At the same time, traditional ops skills are not invalid. Rael said: “As an IT professional, you’re far more than just the tools you understand. Your mindset, combined with your experience of running applications in production and at scale, is highly valuable. “

“Sure, along the way, you’re going to have to learn new tech. But the DevOps movement recognises the value in operations practices when they’re done right. That’s been highlighted in the State of DevOps Report.”

Being cloud native

In recent times, cloud native has become a hot term in the technology world. But what does it actually mean? Colin believes that it starts with the five essential characteristics of cloud, as well as agonistic portability and 12-factor app. “Being agnostic means you are truly cloud native,” he said.

But this isn’t something that happens overnight. Colin added: “Migration is never finished. Once you’re in the cloud, and if you’re trying to go cloud-native, you do have to continually refactor, rewrite and modernise.”

Clearly, developing a high-performing cloud environment is something that takes a lot of time and thinking. However, the five essential characteristics of cloud, Infrastructure as Code, product-focused teams and safety nets from operations can streamline this journey.

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