November 6, 2014

Will the cloud support the flow of your data?

Lars G Magnusson

Enterprise Cloud & Security Architect, Tieto

When choosing a cloud solution, it's important to think about whether it will support - or block - the flow of data around your business.

Think, for a moment, about the information resources you come into contact with on a day-to-day basis. Where does that data come from? Where does it go when you've finished? And could you realistically do your job without it?

Data is the lifeblood of the modern business. The sales department shares information with design and planning, who provide data to product development and production, who in turn deliver fresh insights to sales and aftersales. This is all possible because of networks, and it's made organisations more efficient and agile. However, it's also had another side effect: if that data flow stops somehow, it can endanger the entire organism.

Have today's cloud vendors and buyers recognised this? Unfortunately, many haven't - they're still designing and procuring services that work in isolation, not in conjunction with other systems!

To explain this in a little more detail, think back to the departmental servers of 20 years ago. In the 1990s, it wasn't uncommon for one or more of a company's departments to choose to distance themselves from centralised IT, which might have been slow and unresponsive.

Instead, they installed their own servers and LANs and managed their own IT needs, independent of the rest of the business.

This is almost exactly what the cloud is like today. It's made it very simple for finance and marketing and HR - and in some instances, single employees - to set up systems that work in the ways they want them to work. Cloud vendors have been happy to oblige, too - the most popular solutions on the market at the moment are still the ones that solve old problems like storage, remote working and device interdependence.

But there's an obvious problem here. At some point in the future, the departments and employees using cloud services today will realise they need to connect into somebody else's systems in order to continue working, and to preserve that life-sustaining data flow we talked about. And whether or not they're able to do this will depend on the solution they picked in the first place.

Consolidating data contained on two or more departmental servers is one thing - you can always merge Active Directory domains, for example - but consolidating data from multiple clouds is quite another. They might all have different user management systems, as well as limited scope for interfacing with other applications and databases. So it's eminently possible that an organisation might wake up one day and find that a critical data flow is fatally blocked.

In summary, if your business is considering a new cloud deployment, remember: data is your lifeblood! For cloud services to be as revolutionary as they promise in the new era of enterprise IT, they need to be data-centric rather than systems-centric - a fact that both buyers and vendors sometimes overlook today.

If your vendor understands your requirements from the very beginning, they'll be in a better position to advise you on whether all aspects of a service suit your business' specific needs. What is needed is a comprehensive approach and solid integration capabilities. Only these ensure that you get the business value you are looking for.

Lars G Magnusson works as Enterprise Cloud & Security Architect in Tieto with a past as Global Information Security Officer and Enterprise Cloud Architect within a global Automotive Corporation.

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