Infrastructure-as-a-Service is one of the fastest growing IT segments and is projected to increase going forward according to recent forecasts by Gartner, Infiniti Research and others. There are three primary drivers for this strong expansion in the use of IaaS:
- The ability to convert capital expenditures to operating expenditures
- Streamlining of resource planning and provisioning
- Obtaining higher business value from IT resources
CapEx to OpEx Conversion
Although the cost-to-performance ratio of datacenter hardware continues to improve, in absolute terms the servers, their software and the costs to house and maintain them place a large burden on business capital expenditures. Additionally, there are planning and acquisition costs and the risks of under- or over-provisioning infrastructure. In organizations where the in-house infrastructure has grown into a heterogeneous mix of platforms, upgrading these or attempting to standardize platforms for greater efficiency often requires huge up-front costs.
Five Year Savings of $5 Million
According to a recent IDC whitepaper, Amazon AWS users who have migrated to an IaaS model did so because their projections indicated, on average, that they would have spent annually 63 percent more over five years to buy and maintain in-house data center resources themselves for the same workload capability. These companies avoided large capital expenditures, reduced IT complexity, gained scalable compute resources and optimized their platform usage with the help of an AWS partner. Overall, IDC calculated that the average reported per-organization savings over five years were more than $5 million.
Streamlining Planning and Provisioning
The number of servers required, their provisioning, software stacks, maintenance schedules and monitoring can all be accomplished from an AWS dashboard or through their API. AWS manages the back-end details of hardware allocation, virtualization, storage, networking, OS updates and security. Furthermore, the on-demand, pay-as-you-go nature of AWS IaaS means that IT departments can precisely estimate long-term compute, storage and housing needs and their costs.
Thus, once an enterprise moves away from provisioning and maintaining an in-house data center, they can significantly streamline or even eliminate significant planning overhead associated with it.
Additionally, everything from the networking level to the applications can be programmed and highly automated. The provisioning of the entire software stack can be instantiated and torn down again under the control of lines of code. This code can be placed under revision control just like any other software so that you can use it again to exactly replicate or dismantle a configuration on the same or different servers at will.
This IaaS self-service model has implications for business processes that formerly depended on lengthy, error-prone and potentially costly forecasting cycles that defocus the organization from its core competencies. Since server acquisition and decommission are virtually a mouse-click away, planning for compute/storage resources can be compressed into monthly or even weekly cycles. For most organizations, such short planning periods open opportunities for innovative, highly-efficient decision-making processes.
Increased Self-Reliance and Collaboration
Furthermore, the relative simplicity that AWS IaaS resource provisioning provides means that IT no longer needs to be a bottleneck for obtaining necessary hardware resources. Development and testing teams, for instance, could be enabled to acquire IaaS resources directly and independently, which can improve their project productivity and create more responsive customer-facing teams. Any organization running or planning on implementing a DevOps model can truly appreciate this opportunity.
Obtaining Increased Business Value from IT
Besides high up-front and maintenance costs, capacity planning complexity and reduced flexibility that an in-house data center model incurs, there is a veiled impediment to business innovation that must be taken into account. Freed from more mundane tasks, IT can contribute to a company’s bottom line by redirecting efforts toward higher value activities:
- Reducing process barriers that degrade cross-team/cross-departmental collaboration
- Increasing customer, supplier and partner transparency and responsiveness by streamlining business operational processes and adopting the latest technology
- Driving Business Intelligence initiatives, especially with regard to Big Data
- Driving improvements to the enterprise’s mobile workforce capabilities
- Fine-tuning compute resources and their utilization for various departments on a per-project basis
- Taking on an educational role that fosters self-reliant use of IT services
Needless to say, the opportunity to participate in these sorts of valuable, forward-facing projects improves both employee morale and productivity.
Testing the Waters of IaaS
Organizations with a legacy IT department may wish to start small with a single workload on AWS. This is a common approach where perceived risk is greater than the actual risk and successfully running the workload drastically minimizes the actual risk. Smaller, younger companies often have a more manageable experience with the migration as they tend to have a higher risk tolerance, make the decisions based on the success of others or don’t have the budget for a lengthy PoC or trial.
Assign a Tiger Team
In any case, it is wise to put together a team of experts from IT, business operations and someone from the executive staff to evaluate current capabilities and to identify select projects that would benefit from obtaining IaaS resources. As a primary objective, the team should include an evaluation of current processes around infrastructure planning, acquisition, provisioning and utilization and how those can be streamlined in the context of IaaS. Bringing in external help in the form of an AWS Premier Consulting Partner like TriNimbus with deep subject matter expertise and proven AWS experience adds to the overall firepower to ensure a seamless way forward for the team.
Produce Measurable Results
Measurable objectives must include the impact on TCO, completion time compared to a non-IaaS solution and any improvements in responsiveness during development, testing and support. All members of the team should interact directly via their own accounts with AWS IaaS regardless of their rank or role.
Once a company takes advantage of what AWS IaaS has to offer, it automatically improves its ability to devote more resources toward business development and improving operational processes. Those processes that are built upon the limitations imposed by maintaining an in-house data center, such as long planning cycles, inefficient forecasting and compute resource utilization, are reduced or vanish altogether.
New processes that improve the organization’s agility, responsiveness, cross-team collaboration and ultimately its ability to produce more business value will replace them due to the operational improvements and reduction in capital spending that accompanies the use of AWS IaaS.