Cloud-based Manufacturing • October 19, 2018

Practical Advice for Realizing the Full Potential of Your Cloud Initiative


If you’re seeking good news about cloud technology, you don’t have to look very far. Glowing reports expounding on the value of the cloud are multiplying as fast as SaaS solutions. As we all know, it’s not as easy as vendors want it to seem — it’s one thing to adopt cloud services and quite another to implement them in a way that maximizes benefits.

A report by Bain & Company, “Tapping Cloud’s Full Potential,” found that, on average, organizations have only moved about 18 percent of their workloads to the cloud. That means they are missing out on about two-thirds of the financial and operational efficiency benefits available.

The report’s authors noted that a cautious stance to the cloud causes some to opt for a private cloud over a public cloud — in other words, they design, build and host cloud capacity using their own IT resources. Unfortunately, the report finds, the private cloud delivers only about one third the value made possible when leveraging public cloud. Why? The private cloud burdens internal IT with the problems of cloud architecture, integration, and a myriad other challenges that can lead to soaring costs and impaired functionality.

We’ve selected some best practices to help new cloud adopters set themselves up for success.

Boost your efforts by soliciting buy-in

Top management must be on board for a cloud initiative to succeed. Otherwise, financing will bog down and other priorities will inhibit progress. But management buy in is not enough. Those who will actually be using the applications must be amenable to transferring their existing processes to the cloud. Moreover, the IT department has to be willing to loosen its grip on IT processes and purchasing patterns. Spending time with these important groups before, during, and after the switch is vital to creating a productive, cooperative team effort around cloud adoption.

Internal IT is key to success

Some companies think a move to the cloud means they can largely abandon internal IT. That leads them to let go of valuable staff and underfund IT budgets. Savvy manufacturers understand that while the cloud may lead to a sizable shift in internal IT operations, they are still crucial.

For one thing, not every workload will move to the cloud. Further, capable IT staff must be retained to manage and oversee cloud deployments. Passing off all responsibility to a cloud provider is a sure route to failure. It is up to IT to monitor cloud usage, availability, performance and costs and ensure that cloud services meet expectations. A full evaluation must be done to determine which functions remain in house and which are to be sent to the cloud.

Cloud models for manufacturing systems

Cloud services are typically categorized by three essential models. Let’s look at how these might apply to manufacturers using iBase-t Solumina solutions.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): In this model, the manufacturer eliminates its internal data center and outsources its IT infrastructure to a provider such as IBM Global Services, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace or Amazon Web Services (AWS). In that case, the manufacturer would still own and maintain their data, middleware, and software (including the Solumina application).

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): In this arrangement, the manufacturer rents or leases data center resources, middleware, and operating systems from a provider. Solumina and other applications would be owned by the manufacturer and would run on top of that platform. Examples of PaaS include and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): This is the basic subscription model with which most people are familiar. You pay a set rate per month to a provider such as AWS or Microsoft Azure for a certain amount of storage, compute power, networking etc. You simply log onto the application over the web and don’t have to worry about the underlying hardware and software. Everything is taken care of by the provider and is bundled into the cost. Examples include Google Apps, Dropbox and Salesforce. Solumina will be available via a SaaS model in the very near future.

It is up to IT management to determine the model that is the best fit for reaching their business objectives, extracting ROI from existing systems, and planning for future technology needs.

Choose your partner wisely

Before moving to the cloud, it is wise to carefully evaluate available cloud providers and partner networks. Some companies attempt to provide everything you might need for the cloud experience (e.g., Amazon). Others, such as managed service providers (MSPs), have developed partner networks, enabling them to call upon trusted providers to offer a range of services. Some MSPs gravitate towards specific industries and verticals. Before signing anything, manufacturers are advised to check the availability and performance stats of potential providers, closely investigate overall costs, and check if the prospective vendor has experience in serving businesses in a similar field.

One step at a time

Executives sometimes become overly exuberant about a specific technology or trend and suddenly issue dictates such as “Let’s go all cloud.” IT is advised to temper such enthusiasm with a careful approach to cloud adoption. It’s often helpful to start by going after low-hanging fruit. Look, for example, for applications that are easy to port to the cloud with minimal disruption, where ROI would be readily apparent. That’s a great way to popularize the cloud, get that essential buy-in, and test the waters before diving in deeper.

If you follow these practices, monitor the performance and results of your cloud initiative, and solicit feedback from your end users, you’ll be sure to get the most out of more flexible, cost-effective, and scalable infrastructure and applications.

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