One of the questions I get asked about all the time when starting new cloud projects is what should the team look like that’s building the cloud. I usually respond by saying “you don’t want anymore people on the core team than you can feed with 2 large pizzas”. Of course if you’re in China then I guess you could say no larger than what you can feed with a Peking Duck. This little saying has pretty much held true after over 100 cloud build-outs. If your core, decision making team is larger than about 6 people then your cloud project will go on and on and has about a 90% chance of dying. Stick at or under that team number and you’re good to go.
It’s nice enough to have an idea on the number of people on the core team but who should really make up this team? Recently I came across a Microsoft TechNet article that listed out some people for the cloud team. The article is an ok read. It was obviously written by someone that doesn’t have a lot of practical experience building clouds but that aside it does have some ok points. I want to take a different tact here and tell you what we at VMware ask for in a cloud team knowing full well from a lot of practical experience that this is what it really takes.
Project Manager – First and foremost – a cloud Czar (aka Project Manager). I can’t stress this enough that you absolutely must have a really good project manager looking over the entire project. This isn’t just someone who tracks the project and looks at the milestones. This is someone that will really own the project, drive people to do what they need to do, document the decisions being made, and most importantly enforce the decisions that are made across the company. It’s critical that you give this person enough authority over everyone in IT and enough power behind them to enforce your decisions company wide. If you fail in this one aspect then your cloud project will fail – I will personally guarantee that.
Executive Sponsor – Successful clouds are built from the top down meaning you need a good and powerful executive sponsor. You need someone that can work across business units to get things done that need escalation. You’ll need someone that has good friends at high levels outside of IT as well.
Network Administrator – Networking is perhaps what I spend most of my time on when building out a cloud. It gets complex fast. There’s also a lot that sometimes needs to change – at least from a policy standpoint – when building out a cloud. Networks tend to be fairly static and regulated environments for good reason. However, in cloud we need to leverage new technologies to make the network become more dynamic and to scale much higher than ever before. The network architect is going to be a key cornerstone to this project.
Storage Administrator – Another thing that gets complex is the storage layout. This is another typically static or at least not very dynamic environment that gets changed a lot with cloud. Not to mention the storage people aren’t used to a lot of unknown growth or usage that isn’t planned out and officially requested. This can be challenging to work into the existing storage environments.
Software Developer – A large part of cloud is automating the environment. Sometimes there comes a need to augment the portal with new UIs as well. A good java developer is always someone you want to keep close at hand in any cloud buildout.
Operations Manager – Eventually you’re going to have to hand off your new, shiny cloud to the ops team. You’re going to be handing them something that’s dynamic and multi-tenanted and stretches across several different disciplines. Clouds have a habit of throwing the ops teams for a loop so the more you can do to have the operations manager involved in the cloud buildout and decisions the better off you’ll be.
Cloud Architect – I guess this one goes without saying, but you need a Cloud Architect. You need someone who’s going to guide the decisions that are made in the entire cloud project. Someone who can make the final decision on which way to go and why you’re going that way. The person you pick for this role should have a wide background in technology and be deep in at least storage, networking, and programming.
Other people that you will reach out to but don’t need to be on the core team:
Windows Admin – Eventually you’ll get around to building templates for different Windows applications. When that time comes you’ll need a Windows admin to assist. You’ll also use the Windows admin to build out some of the infrastructure of the cloud.
Linux Admin – See Windows admin. Replace Windows with Linux.
Database Administrator – A lot of the moving parts of cloud consume database services. Whether it’s the front-end portal or the various back-end components or the message bus or the CMDB the cloud is going to need to hook into one or more databases. Do yourself a favor and just get the DBA as part of your team now to avoid future headaches.
Infrastructure Admins/Architects – You’ll obviously need the infrastructure admins as part of the extended team so you can build out the cloud.
Finance Representative – This is the person that everyone overlooks but is critical for cloud. Licensing is one of the 3 cloud killers and the finance representative holds the keys to that kingdom. The finance person can also help you adjust the supply chain to get infrastructure components moving in faster so your cloud can scale dynamically. Definitely don’t overlook having a good finance person as part of the extended cloud team.
So there you have it. My list of the team you want to pull together to build your cloud. If you have any additions or comments please leave them below for all to read.