The Cloud Foundation – Key to Cloud Excellence

By Wulf Schiemann24. February 2021

Organizing your IT the cloud-native way: Read why the creation of a central cloud team needs to be a central piece in your cloud strategy.

A cloud journey is as much an organizational journey as it is a technological one. The establishment of a Cloud Foundation, also known as the Cloud Competence Center or Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a best practice to leverage the advantages of the cloud.

In this post on the Cloud Foundation, we want to introduce you to the core concept of such a team and why it makes such a big difference.

So let’s dive right in:

What is a Cloud Foundation?

A Cloud Foundation is a multi-disciplinary team of enterprise architects, developers, and operators, network and security engineers, system and database administrators. The team governs and enables the organization’s cloud transformation process.

Enterprises that follow a cloud strategy to reduce costs and become more agile need to take on organizational transformation to leverage the cloud to the fullest.

One central piece of this puzzle is the creation of a central cloud team: Cloud Foundation, Cloud Competence Center or Cloud Center of Excellence – many names, one core concept: Centralizing cloud governance to enable more productive, more agile, and more innovative DevOps.

It is effectively the team that pioneers and paves the way that is used by DevOps teams to safely travel to and navigate the cloud.

The Advantages of a Cloud Foundation over Cloud Silos

Many IT departments in enterprises are still organized in so-called silos. When it comes to the cloud that may mean there is a division for Azure, one for AWS, and one for GCP. Every one of these silos has to build up know-how and tooling for proper cloud governance.

Developing and running applications in this scenario puts a lot of overhead responsibilities on the shoulders of DevOps teams. And it grows with each cloud platform they add.

Optimizing in silos can make each silo run their cloud platform perfectly, but it won’t remove inefficiencies in the overall cloud transformation effort.

Global optimization is not possible in a silo structure: With a Cloud Foundation on the other hand you can optimize the entire cloud journey of your organization. The Cloud Foundation centralizes cloud governance competencies to enable and drive the cloud journey.

Cloud governance is not platform-specific – and so it does not make sense to reinvent the cloud governance wheel for every platform in every silo. In a Cloud Foundation team boundaries and best practices can be shared better and faster leading to better platform-specific implementations.

Done well, this enablement function will achieve the following outcomes:

  • Accelerate cloud adoption across the organization
  • Enable and encourage innovation
  • Optimize costs (based on FinOps practices)
  • Minimize the risks involved (based on continuous compliance and compliance as code practices)

Done badly, however, a Cloud Foundation can actually end up acting as a barrier to consuming cloud within the organization.

It is important to have a value mindset and focus on what value the cloud can bring to the teams: If it is just a top to bottom company initiative there will be resistance and you will lose speed.

The Main Tasks of a Cloud Foundation

Let’s talk about more specific tasks for the Cloud Foundation team.

To achieve the goals we’ve talked about in the previous section a Cloud Foundation has to take on the following eight tasks:

  1. Implement cloud transformation and strategy
  2. Manage cloud cost and billing
  3. Manage and report cloud transformation
  4. Implement and enforce organization-wide cloud journey policies
  5. Provide guidance and training
  6. Manage cloud identities and access for DevOps teams
  7. Keep up with the latest cloud technologies
  8. Manage cloud security and compliance risks

How to build a Cloud Foundation Team

Ideally, you start building a Cloud Foundation team well before the first workloads are migrated to the cloud. But that doesn’t mean that at some point it may be too late to start: It is never too late to tackle the organizational transformation needed to fully capitalize on the competitive advantages of the cloud.

Let’s say you have a small team that has a cloud-native use case, and they are the first lighthouse team going into the cloud. After this move, the organization itself learned a lot from actually doing and learning instead of planning a long time and never implementing anything. So sometimes the better approach is just trying because it puts you on a steeper learning curve. The cloud foundation team could be a team of architects accompanying the first five teams and then evaluate what went well, what bad, and how they can support others in building a solid practice on their cloud journey.

Regardless of the size of the business or the extent of its presence in the cloud, a Cloud Foundation team should start small. Building the team from developers, system administrators, network engineers, IT operations, and database administrators: start small, learn fast, and grow big!

Building a solid foundation first and then the house on top of it is definitely a good sequence of events. However, it is absolutely worthwhile equipping the building that houses your business success with a stable foundation; even after you came to realize it might be built on softer ground.

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