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Experimentation and the problem of “shadow” IT

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IT departments often live in a world of contradiction. On the one hand, they must “keep the lights on,” by keeping servers and networks up, by delivering reports on time, and by ensuring that systems and data meet regulatory obligations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and other forms of compliance. These
requirements are nothing if not rigorous—and essential.

On the other hand, they and their business partners desire innovation: new programs and new  applications to support both new and evolving business opportunities, to better serve their customers,
and so forth. Yet the costs of IT operations—sometimes 70–80 percent of the overall budget—reduces the ability of IT to spend on new programs and innovation.

In many cases (in fact, in every enterprise we know), there are occasionally applications created and
deployed outside of the IT department in response to critical business needs. These unofficial applications are often referred to as “shadow” IT. Instead of going through the usual budget,
requirements analysis, design and deployment phases typical in the creation of a new IT application, a  marketing department publicizing a new campaign might simply create a new website on their own.

Because it eliminates the capital-expense investment component (i.e., servers, storage, and network)
of application development, the cloud makes this sort of rapid innovation much, much easier. In effect, all that is needed are a few coders to write the application—and a credit card.5

IT executives should realize that this sort of innovation and experimentation is inevitable, and in many cases actually desirable. As the business climate rapidly evolves, it is critical for both businesses and IT organizations to foster rapid experimentation and innovation. It will be important to educate businesses on the importance and consequences of regulatory issues and noncompliance, of course. IT departments can actually help them by providing controlled, managed access to critical data, such as customer information, rather than letting them gather and manipulate the data on their own.

As soon as a company starts this process of envisioning and creates the culture of experimentation, it
learns a disruptive truth: in the cloud era, you must experiment, fail fast, and learn fast. It is as important to experiment in order to learn quickly both from successes and from failures. Learning
from how you succeed and what makes you fail provides the basis for delivering the disruptive
innovation and value from the cloud.

As you can by now expect, these phases shape the cloud migration principles used for the rest of the
process, these principles are go fast, push the boundaries, make data-driven decisions, simplify, and,
finally, communicate to succeed.

 Go fast exemplifies the spirit of the experimentation phase. For some, it might represent a new
way of thinking for IT because, with the cloud, you can “spin up” new projects quickly with a few
clicks rather than having to plan, allotting datacenter space, procuring equipment, and so on. We
call this the try many, use best approach because the cloud uniquely facilitates the ability of IT
departments to choose the best of many solutions.

 Push the boundaries suggests that wherever possible, IT should not simply adapt to the new paradigm of the cloud, but embrace it and adopt new architectures and processes quickly to best
exploit the new opportunities.

 Make data-driven decisions proposes that you carefully track and measure the numbers, including the cost effectiveness of the cloud for financial reasons, system telemetry for technical efficiency
reasons, and so on. Following the data carefully will make it possible for you to make informed
decisions about which applications are generating the most return, about which you should prioritize, about which are performing well in the cloud, and where potential problem areas exist.

 Simplify focuses on retiring, right-sizing, and consolidating as many services and applications as
possible. Applications that are infrequently or rarely used often generate significant costs for an IT
organization, with little return. Retiring them and consolidating them with applications that
perform similar functions can, conversely, generate savings in a number of areas such as hardware, system software licenses, and maintenance. Consider generating metrics around “hot” and “cold” applications based on CPU, network, and database utilization; for example, an application that averages two percent of CPU and has few authenticated users might be just such a “cold” application.

 Communicate to succeed is the single most important mechanism that guarantees continued success and not just the migration of a single application or a service. Establish a clear and continuous communication channel for stakeholders to visualize success and impact as well as to understand the failure and the lessons learned from them. Key stakeholders remain engaged and continue to invest when they feel their participation in the joint effort required to make this a continuous journey and not just a single trip.

Source of Information : Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Strategy

Microsoft IT’s first cloud application

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Microsoft IT developed its first cloud application in 2010. It was an employee auction application, used once a year as part of the Microsoft charitable giving campaign. With it, employees donate items
(ranging from mentoring sessions, to cooking classes, to software, and even the use of an executive’s
car for a day!) and others buy them, with all the proceeds going to charity. The auction, typically held
in October, runs for a month.

Why did we pick this as our first cloud application? A number of factors led us to this decision: first, it was not a business-critical application. Therefore, news of any application problems would not cause damage to the company’s finances or reputation or appear on the front page of any newspaper.

Second, we could see the scalability features of Microsoft Azure in action. As the end of October
approached, traffic on the application continually rose, reaching a peak in the last few days of the
auction.

Finally, it was a relatively simple application whose deployment in the cloud did not require updating other applications in concert.

In the end, the application was very successful and the auction met its goals (incidentally, over the
years, Microsoft’s employees have raised more than one billion dollars for charity). Microsoft IT
learned many lessons on cloud development and deployment, which we used in subsequent stages of
our own journey. We saw the application easily scale to meet the increased demand during the course
of the month. At the end of the auction, we could shut it down and no longer pay for resources
required to run it (as we would have—for servers, operations staff, and so on—had we run the
application in our own datacenter). By every measure, then, this first experiment was a success.

There were many other early experiments in this period, trying out new approaches, testing new
features, and so on; we learned that developing a “culture of experimentation” was useful in that we
could be continuously trying new things and innovating.

Source of Information : Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Strategy

Evolution of the five R’s of modernization

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To focus our efforts on guidance for existing applications, let’s proceed with the most convenient way
to think about modernization, which is commonly called “the five R’s”:3 retire, replace, retain and wrap, rehost, and reenvision. It’s likely that no single approach will be appropriate for all of an enterprise’s legacy applications, and a mix of differing approaches might be warranted, based on the value that an application delivers versus the cost of any given approach. Because these approaches depend highly on the situation, application, and types of cost involved, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

 Retire Of course, if a legacy application is providing little value compared to its costs, the enterprise should consider it a candidate for retirement. When few people are using an application relative to its cost impact, the enterprise needs to run a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is worth the expense. Additionally, some functionality provided by legacy systems may be rolled into a consolidated modern application running in the cloud, allowing some applications to be retired while others are replaced and modernized.

 Replace Often, a legacy application is providing some value, but an off-the-shelf replacement
with a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) is available. Many legacy applications were originally
built because there was no alternative at that time. A modern, readily available application that is
better suited to running in the cloud—most cost-effectively of all, a SaaS application—may now
exist that can be used to replace the older one. Also, when a legacy application is replaced with a
more comprehensive modern solution, there might be a chance to consolidate functionality from
several older applications, thereby replacing multiple applications with a single system.

 Retain and wrap If a legacy application is providing good value and not incurring a high TCO,
the best approach might be to retain it but put a modern “wrapper” around it in order to gain additional value and benefits. Examples of the “retain and wrap” approach include the following:

 Wrap a legacy application within C# in Microsoft Visual Studio, add web services to the application there, and then add a layer of orchestration around those web services.

 Extend a legacy application with third-party tools; for example, using a C# wrapper around an older technology such as COBOL. Apply the benefits of the wrapper on top of the core technology in new, more modern ways, such as facilitating the development of mobile tools.

 Rehost If a legacy application is providing good value but is expensive to run, it might be a candidate for rehosting. Rehosting involves keeping the same basic functionality, but moving it to
the cloud where it is easier to manage and less expensive to run. This is also called “lift and shift.”
In a rehosting situation, the legacy application might be currently located either on a local VM or
on local hardware. Some VMs might be eligible to move with a simple migration. Those on local
hardware might be able to be converted with a physical-to-virtual migration and then hosting the
VM on the cloud. Some VMs, especially older ones, might not migrate easily to the cloud without
some significant work. In those cases, you might want to consider reenvisioning and building the
application in the cloud.

 Reenvision If a legacy application is providing good value but cannot be easily migrated, the best solution might be to reenvision it and build it again on the cloud. Reenvisioning is a process of rebuilding the application in the cloud using modern technology, a new architecture, and best practices; it normally also involves adding more business value to core functionality, such as
improving market differentiation. Reenvisioning an application might require rewriting the main
logic by using a modern development language and tools and making it service oriented.
Reenvisioning an application can be facilitated by starting with VMs in the cloud, which can be
instantiated in a matter of minutes.

Source of Information : Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Strategy

Don’t miss the opportunity to modernize

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Before we go on, it’s worth noting that the cloud provides an opportunity to consider the IT ecosystem as a whole and how it can be modernized. As you shall see, cloud migration at scale involves looking at each application and determining how it should be thought of in this new environment called the cloud. Is further investment in certain applications justified? Should they be retired?

Many enterprises have held their applications for far too long without assigning to them a maintenance or retirement schedule. Therefore, for fear of complexity, lack of documentation, resources, source code, or other reasons, applications remain untouched.

Even for applications that remain on-premises, modernization can save time and money. An internal Microsoft IT study in 2010 demonstrated that the number of problem reports (“tickets”) and the time to resolve them increased with the age of the application and system software. (This analysis led to a focused effort to ensure that all applications were on the latest version of the operating system and other systems software such as database.)

Moreover, and more important, migration to the cloud provides an opportunity to evaluate and modernize applications and, in particular, their business logic. This activity can provide great returns on investment and impact to the top-line revenue.

There are many motions that one can take to modernize application and services portfolios, such as the following:

 Rehost Move a VM or an operating environment from the on-premises datacenter to a hoster
or a cloud. This model is also known as co-location.

 Replatform A legacy environment becomes unsustainable based on cost or operational requirements; a solution is to “retain and wrap” the application without making changes to the code, possibly compromising the integrity and security of the operation.

 Retire and Rewrite (or Reenvision) When there are sufficient new requirements that cannot be met by the older environment, the best way to proceed is to rewrite the application in a newer, better-suited environment. Often this occurs when examining the portfolio of applications and
consolidating several that have similar function.

 Burst out With all of the new compute, data, and service models that are being provided in cloud environments, each providing capabilities and capacities that where never before accessible to an IT environment, many applications are bursting out to the cloud. These applications are doing innovative types of analytics, reporting, high-performance computing, visualization, and so on. Keeping frequently used (“hot”) data locally while aging-out infrequently accessed (“cold”) data to far cheaper cloud storage is another common pattern.

 Expand Enterprises are now exploring how to expand their older applications and how to add functionality to provide to mobile devices and web front ends the same capabilities that previously were limited to a computer screen. They are even moving to enhance the applications with search or video services, as an example.

 Cloud-Native Applications As companies begin their investigation of the cloud, they frequently realize that there are new forms of applications like Big Data, new types of analytics, entirely new capabilities such as machine learning, and applications for the Internet of Things (IoT) that are uniquely fitted to live in the cloud.

Source of Information : Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Strategy

Journey to the cloud: the roadmap

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What if you were able to achieve both efficiency and innovation in all the business domains and applications across your entire portfolio? What if you could take advantage of the cloud and all of its resources and features to get a “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” effect? With a good roadmap to lead the way, you can. This chapter covers what it means to move your enterprise to the cloud. We’ll provide examples and learning experiences from Microsoft’s own journey, as well as from those of our customers.

In any transformative change, it’s important to understand what the destination is and what the waypoints along the journey will be. There are multiple potential destinations for any application, and
IT cloud deployments will be a mixture of them:

 Private cloud In a private cloud, cloud technologies are hosted in an on-premises datacenter. Private clouds can be useful because they can implement a technology stack that is consistent with the public cloud. This might be necessary in scenarios for which certain applications or data cannot be moved off premises. However, private clouds do not provide the cost savings and efficiencies that the public cloud can, because private clouds require a significant capital expense budget and a (potentially large) operations staff.

 Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) In IaaS, the application virtual machines (VMs) are simply moved from on-premises to the cloud. This is the easiest migration strategy and has many benefits, including cost savings. But, it still means that your operations staff will need to perform such tasks as patch management, updates, and upgrades. Nevertheless, IaaS is one of the most common cloud deployment patterns to date because it reduces the time between purchasing and deployment to almost nothing. Additionally, because it is the most similar to how IT operates today, it provides an easy onboarding ramp for the IT culture and processes of today.

 Platform as a Service (PaaS) In PaaS, the cloud provider maintains all system software, removing the burden of upgrades and patches from the IT department. PaaS is similar to the traditional three tier model of enterprise software, having a presentation layer (called “Web Role”), a business logic layer (called “Worker Role”), and persistent storage (Microsoft Azure SQL Database or other database). In a PaaS deployment model, all that the enterprise needs to focus on is in deploying its code on the PaaS machines; the cloud provider ensures that operating systems, database software, integration software, and other features are maintained, kept up to date, and achieve a high service level agreement (SLA).

 Software as a Service (SaaS) In SaaS, you simply rent an application from a vendor, such as Microsoft Office 365 for email and productivity. This is by far the most cost-effective of all the options because typically the only work involved for the IT department is provisioning users and data and, perhaps, integrating the application with single sign-on (SSO). Typically, SaaS applications are used for functions that are not considered business-differentiating, for which custom or customized applications encode the competitively differentiating business models and rules.

 The hybrid cloud Many enterprises might choose to keep some applications on-premises— perhaps they are based on nonstandard systems or out-of-date software, or perhaps they will remain on-premises while waiting for their turn to be migrated to the cloud. In this model, some applications run in the cloud, whereas others remain on-premises, requiring a secure, high-speed communications path between the two environments. In a way, then, the cloud becomes an extension of the existing datacenter, and vice versa.

Source of Information : Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Strategy

What Steve Jobs Taught Us - Direct All Of This To Your Blog

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Listing all the available tools and then making an informed choice as to which tools are the most suited for the exercise at hand helps to give the necessary aid towards a more successful and well planned and executed foray into the online arena.

Based on the previously disseminated information which is recapped as having passion, learning to communicate, learning to relate and building a community, an individual should be fairly well equipped for the journey into the online arena.

Making sure to include all these into a blogging exercise will help to enhance the possibility of better traffic flow which in turn creates the necessary popularity levels that make the said blog a success.
There are also other elements that can contribute in a positive way towards a well planned entrepreneurial endeavor. These may include the use of networking in other ways which can be equally beneficial to a blog.

Taking the time and effort to always stay current and relevant is definitely the way to unsure a better percentage of success. It could also show the individual’s level of commitment to the endeavor at hand and as such creates a level of expectation and confidence in the followers of the blog.

What Steve Jobs Taught Us - Build A Community

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Taking the time to build a workable and comfortable community will go a long way in terms of resources, ideas, expertise and many other positive contributing factors that play a vital role in any situation.

Community existence is very important on many levels and thus should be nurtured and encouraged as much as possible. One of the best ways of building a community is to invite people to join in and actively contribute in any way that they may find beneficial to the overall entity.

Exchanging ideas could be a good starting point, and the internet is an ideal platform for this exercise. Using the many tools available on the internet one can actually make contributions on many different levels that are both beneficial and enlightening to others.

This of course a welcome respite from having to deal with things individually, as with a community working together more things can be accomplished.

Using the various internet tools to encourage participation online is also another avenue that can be tapped as it can be limitless. When there is a sense of community commitment, the strong sentiments felt helps to boost even the lamest endeavor which in turn has the potential of producing amazing results.

Building a community also helps when it comes to promoting anything because the network available is vast and effective. The exchange of information often happens at a very fast pace and can effectively spread to the intended audience without any hindrance.

What Steve Jobs Taught Us - Learn to Relate

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Empathy can go a long way in making other feel understood and accepted. When condemnation is kept to a minimal and exercised only when absolutely necessary, then those involved will be able to function more effectively as they are confident of being accepted and respected for their contributions and efforts.

Though some quarters advocate keeping some level of formality and distance between the different levels of any working relationship, taking this too seriously will eventually dissolve the ability to relate to different people and different situations.

Such an environment can cause a project to stall or even struggle to reach its success because those involved are not able to relate to each other’s needs and thought processes.

Taking the time to understand and perhaps even lend a helping hand or giving well placed advice shows the individual’s intention of wanting to relate better and create a more conducive relationship or environment.

Another way to create the perception or willingness to relating to something lies in the effort expounded to actually trying to learn more or get more involved in the endeavor or situation.

This gives all concerned an opportunity to understand the various aspects involved which in turn could contribute to a better level of tolerance and success.

Avoid forming opinions and making remarks until one is completely sure of all that has transpired. By this simple act of patience being practiced throughout the exercise of gaining full knowledge of any situation, the individual is able to better relate to the different aspects of the said situation and thus render a better overall judgment which will then be accepted as being relatable.

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