Make the right strategic choices with a Cloud Architecture Assessment
For many organisations, the move to public cloud is an inevitable part of their digital transformation. This step cannot be completed from a technical point of view alone. Getting the most value out of the public cloud and maximising the benefits in scalability and agility requires strategic choices.
The manner in which you design your cloud environment makes a world of difference to business value. The right strategic choices lead to a competitive advantage and a future-proof foundation for your organisation; wrong choices can lead to an unsafe, unstable, and very expensive environment.
It is therefore wise to regularly assess your current cloud architecture, or have it assessed. Did you make the right choices? Can better choices be made now, thanks to advances in insight or on the basis of new features and possibilities? These are the key questions answered by a Cloud Architecture Assessment.
The six pillars of cloud architecture
In public cloud, be it AWS, Microsoft or Google, solid architectures are set up on the basis of a framework. Until recently, this consisted of five pillars; security, reliability, operational excellence, performance efficiency, and cost optimisation.
Recently, AWS decided to add sustainability as a sixth pillar. The ecological footprint of business operations is becoming increasingly important, and this extends to the use of the public cloud. Other public cloud players are expected to follow suit soon. Ultimately, this new pillar should lead to the environmentally responsible use of public clouds.
These pillars, which regularly overlap each other, provide the framework for analysing and assessing the cloud architecture, for example which cloud services are most valuable for your organisation. You can better assess which choices contribute to good governance, and those which do the very opposite. In short, the assessment provides a clear picture of the strategic impact on your organisation.
Pillar 1: Security
Security has always been complex, but developments in cloud technology have made it even more so. Modern criminals exploit a wide range of vulnerabilities in system configurations, operational practices, and user behaviour, among other things. And as the complexity of systems, their interconnectedness and the diversity of users increase, the possibilities for attackers to identify unprotected parts of an environment and manipulate systems increase.
Security is ‘job zero’ within any cloud architecture. It safeguards the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your business operations against deliberate attacks and misuse of valuable data and systems.
- Is my cloud environment sufficiently protected against breaches?
- Can an intruder enter the entire environment through a single component?
- Is sensitive information accessible to everyone, or only to authorised personnel?
- Is sensitive information accessible publicly, or only internally?
- Does my cloud architecture meet my organisation’s compliance requirements?
- Is my cloud environment sufficiently protected against breaches?
Pillar 2: Reliability
A reliable cloud architecture is both resilient and accessible. Resilience is the ability of a system to recover from failures, and to continue functioning. The aim of resilience is to get the application fully functioning again after a disruption. Accessibility refers to whether users can access the environment when they need to.
It is practically impossible to prevent failures completely. In the famous words of the CTO of AWS, Werner Vogels: “Everything fails all the time”. The key to a reliable cloud architecture is therefore the ability to minimise the impact of a disruption.
- Is the environment set up in a way that allows my teams to respond to disruptions promptly?
- Have sufficient measures been taken to minimise the time that business operations are interrupted by disruptions?
Pijler 3: Operational excellence
This pillar is about all the work and processes that keep applications running. Implementations must be reliable, predictable, and preferably automated to reduce the risk of human error. Fast and well-structured implementation processes not only enable you to roll out product releases and bug fixes faster, they also provide extra security. This means, for example, that you can also quickly roll back updates in the event of problems.
Pijler 4: Performance efficiency
Performance efficiency is the ability to efficiently scale your environment to meet changing usage requirements. This is much easier in the cloud than in on-premises architecture. There is no need to physically install a machine with certain specifications; this can be automated in the cloud. It means you can always comply with usage requirements.
However, the reverse is also possible; that an environment is set up with far too powerful specifications. In that case, performance efficiency means monitoring for under-utilisation and scaling down capacity.
- Is the capacity of your cloud environment optimally aligned with the demands of the business?
- Do the choices made in my architecture lead to optimal performance of applications and systems?
Pillar 5: Cost optimisation
This pillar has the most overlap with all the aforementioned aspects; ensuring that the costs of a cloud environment are properly aligned with the workloads. This allows for a great deal of flexibility, and as a result many opportunities for optimisation. Should you opt for on-demand scaling of your environment, reserve capacity on an annual basis at a certain discount, or prioritise spot instances (where computing power is auctioned at low prices for times when the overall load of a cloud provider is low)?
Cost optimisation is not just about reducing costs. An IT department might only see an increase in costs, but the marketing or sales department may see more conversions. This is one of the main advantages of the cloud; you can compare the business logic with the investments easily, creating transparency that promotes cost optimisation.
- Are the costs in all aspects of the cloud architecture optimally aligned with operational needs?
- Is the environment designed cost-effectively, with an eye on an optimal total cost of ownership?
Pillar 6: Sustainability
Sustainability is about using resources efficiently, with particular emphasis on consumption. Consider, for example, microservices, with which you can not only develop new functionalities much more efficiently, but also control much more precisely which services are active at which moment. Another example is the efficiency of the code. Each environment runs certain checks at regular intervals. Are all these checks necessary, or can the intervals be increased? This may seem like a minor difference, but the average cloud environment carries out many such processes. Taken together, these kinds of adjustments add up to a world of difference when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability.
- What corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ESG (Environment, Society & Governance) objectives does the organisation pursue?
- What workloads or environments qualify for increased sustainability?
- What optimisations can I identify and realise to make public cloud environments more sustainable?
Pillar 7: a fresh look
This pillar falls outside the framework of cloud architecture, but is very valuable for an assessment. After all, it can be difficult to assess your own choices.
A good partner can provide support. The partner helps you take a look in the mirror, and guides you in the assessment of your cloud architecture. And, above all, raises questions that make you think, without behaving like a critic who only tells you what you are doing wrong.
This is what Solvinity offers with our Cloud Architecture Assessment. Based on best practices, industry standards (such as the six pillars in this article), and strict compliance standards, our consultants assess whether your cloud architecture is future-proof and contributing optimally to your organisation’s needs. This leads to a thorough and well-founded cloud report with pragmatic recommendations; personalised advice on the approach, resourcing and best practices to follow; and personal guidance during and after the assessment.