Cloud Adoption Background

Unlocking the Cloud Operating Model

Achieving the fastest path to value in a modern, multi-cloud datacenter

Executive Summary

To thrive in an era of multi-cloud architecture, driven by digital transformation, Enterprise IT must evolve from ITIL-based gatekeeping to enabling shared self-service processes for DevOps excellence.

For most enterprises, digital transformation efforts mean delivering new business and customer value more quickly, and at a very large scale. The implication for Enterprise IT then is a shift from cost optimization to speed optimization. The cloud is an inevitable part of this shift as it presents the opportunity to rapidly deploy on-demand services with limitless scale.

To unlock the fastest path to value in the cloud, enterprises must consider how to industrialize the application delivery process across each layer of the cloud: embracing the cloud operating model, and tuning people, process, and tools to it.

In this white paper, we look at the implications of the cloud operating model, and present solutions for IT teams to adopt this model across infrastructure, security, networking, and application delivery.

Transitioning to a Multi-Cloud Datacenter

The transition to cloud, and multi-cloud, environments is a generational transition for IT. This transition means shifting from largely dedicated servers in a private datacenter to a pool of compute capacity available on demand. While most enterprises began with one cloud provider, there are good reasons to use services from others and inevitably most Global 2000 organizations will use more than one, either by design or through mergers and acquisitions.

The cloud presents an opportunity for speed and scale optimization for new “systems of engagement” — the applications built to engage customers and users. These new apps are the primary interface for the customer to engage with a business, and are ideally suited for delivery in the cloud as they tend to:

  • Have dynamic usage characteristics, needing to scale loads up and down by orders of magnitude during short time periods.
  • Be under pressure to quickly build and iterate. Many of these new systems may be ephemeral in nature, delivering a specific user experience around an event or campaign.

For most enterprises though, these systems of engagement must connect to existing “systems of record” — the core business databases and internal applications, which often continue to reside on infrastructure in existing data centers. As a result, enterprises end up with a hybrid — a mix of multiple public and private cloud environments.

Implications of the Cloud Operating Model

The essential implication of the transition to the cloud is the shift from “static” infrastructure to “dynamic” infrastructure: from a focus on configuration, and management of a static fleet of IT resources, to provisioning, securing, connecting, and running dynamic resources on demand.

Decomposing this implication, and working up the stack, various changes of approach are implied:

  • Provision. The infrastructure layer transitions from running dedicated servers at limited scale to a dynamic environment where organizations can easily adjust to increased demand by spinning up thousands of servers and scaling them down when not in use. As architectures and services become more distributed, the sheer volume of compute nodes increases significantly.
  • Secure. The security layer transitions from a fundamentally “high-trust” world enforced by a strong perimeter and firewall to a “low-trust” or “zero-trust” environment with no clear or static perimeter. As a result, the foundational assumption for security shifts from being IP-based to using identity-based access to resources. This shift is highly disruptive to traditional security models.
  • Connect. The networking layer transitions from being heavily dependent on the physical location and IP address of services and applications to using a dynamic registry of services for discovery, segmentation, and composition. An enterprise IT team does not have the same control over the network, or the physical locations of compute resources, and must think about service-based connectivity.
  • Run. The runtime layer shifts from deploying artifacts to a static application server to deploying applications with a scheduler atop a pool of infrastructure which is provisioned on-demand. In addition, new applications have become collections of services that are dynamically provisioned, and packaged in multiple ways: from virtual machines to containers.

Additionally, each cloud provider has its own solution to these challenges. For enterprise IT teams, these shifts in approach are compounded by the realities of running on hybrid- and multi-cloud infrastructures and the varying tools each technology provides.

To address these challenges, then those teams must ask the following questions:

  • People. How can we enable a team for a multi-cloud reality, where skills can be applied consistently regardless of target environment?
  • Process. How do we position central IT services as a self-service enabler of speed, versus a ticket-based gatekeeper of control, while retaining compliance and governance?
  • Tools. How do we best unlock the value of the available capabilities of the cloud providers in pursuit of better customer and business value?

Unlocking the Cloud Operating Model

As the implications of the cloud operating model impact teams across infrastructure, security, networking, and applications, we see a repeating pattern amongst enterprises of establishing central shared services — centers of excellence — to deliver the dynamic infrastructure necessary at each layer for successful application delivery.

As teams deliver on each shared service for the cloud operating model, IT velocity increases. The greater cloud maturity an organization has, the faster its velocity.

What follows is the step-by-step journey that we have seen organizations adopt successfully.

» Step 1: Multi-cloud Infrastructure Provisioning

The foundation for adopting the cloud is infrastructure provisioning. HashiCorp Terraform is the world's most widely used cloud provisioning product and can be used to provision infrastructure for any application using an array of providers for any target platform.

To achieve shared services for infrastructure provisioning, IT teams should start by implementing reproducible infrastructure as code practices, and then layering compliance and governance workflows to ensure appropriate controls.

» Reproducible infrastructure as code

The first goal of a shared service for infrastructure provisioning is to enable the delivery of reproducible infrastructure as code, providing DevOps teams a way to plan and provision resources inside CI/CD workflows using familiar tools throughout.

DevOps teams can create Terraform templates that express the configuration of services from one or more cloud platforms. Terraform integrates with all major configuration management tools to allow fine grained provisioning to be handled following the provisioning of the underlying resources. Finally, templates can be extended with services from many other ISV providers to include monitoring agents, application performance monitoring (APM) systems, security tooling, DNS, and Content Delivery Networks, and more. Once defined, the templates can be provisioned as required in an automated way. In doing so, Terraform becomes the lingua franca and common workflow for teams provisioning resources across public and private cloud.

» Secrets management

The first step in cloud security is typically secrets management: the central storage, access control, and distribution of dynamic secrets. Instead of depending on static IP addresses, integrating with identity-based access systems such as AWS IAM and Azure AAD to authenticate and access services and resources is crucial.

Vault uses policies to codify how applications authenticate, which credentials they are authorized to use, and how auditing should be performed. It can integrate with an array of trusted identity providers such as cloud identity and access management (IAM) platforms, Kubernetes, Active Directory, and other SAML-based systems for authentication. Vault then centrally manages and enforces access to secrets and systems based on trusted sources of application and user identity.

» Service Registry & Discovery

The starting point for networking in the cloud operating model is typically a common service registry. This would integrate health checks and provide DNS and API interfaces to enable any service to discover and be discovered by other services.

Consul can be integrated with other services that manage existing north-south traffic such as a traditional load balancers, and distributed application platforms such as Kubernetes, to provide a consistent registry and discovery service across multi-data center, cloud, and platform environments.

» Service Mesh

In a sophisticated environment, Consul provides a distributed service mesh to connect, secure, and configure services across any runtime platform and cloud. Consul provides an API driven control plane, which integrates with proxies such as Envoy, HAProxy, and Nginx for the data plane. This allows critical functionality like naming, segmentation and authorization, and routing to be handled by proxies at the edge rather than using centralized middleware.

» Mixed Workload Orchestration

Many new workloads are developed with container packaging with the intent to deploy to Kubernetes or other container management platforms. But many legacy workloads will not be moved onto those platforms, nor will future Serverless applications. Nomad provides a consistent process for deployment of all workloads from virtual machines, through standalone binaries, and containers, and provides core orchestration benefits across those workloads such as release automation, multiple upgrade strategies, bin packing, and resilience.

For modern applications — typically built in containers — Nomad provides the same consistent workflow at scale in any environment. Nomad is focused on simplicity and effectiveness at orchestration and scheduling, and avoids the complexity of platforms such as Kubernetes that require specialist skills to operate and solve only for container workloads.

Ultimately, these shared services across infrastructure, security, networking, and application runtime present an industrialized process for application delivery, all while taking advantage of the dynamic nature of each layer of the cloud.

Embracing the cloud operating model enables self-service IT that is fully compliant and governed for teams to deliver applications at increasing speed.


A common cloud operating model is an inevitable shift for enterprises aiming to maximize their digital transformation efforts. The HashiCorp suite of tools seeks to provide solutions for each layer of the cloud to enable enterprises to make this shift to the cloud operating model.

Enterprise IT needs to evolve away from ITIL-based control points with its focus on cost optimization, toward becoming self-service enablers focused on speed optimization. It can do this by delivering shared services across each layer of the cloud designed to assist teams deliver new business and customer value at speed.

Unlocking the fastest path to value in a modern multi-cloud data center through adopting a common cloud operating model means shifting characteristics of Enterprise IT:

  • People: shifting to multi-cloud skills.

    • Reuse skills from internal data center management and single cloud vendors and apply them consistently in any environment.
    • Embrace DevSecOps and other agile practices to continuously deliver increasingly ephemeral and distributed systems.
  • Process: shifting to self-service IT.

    • Position Central IT as an enabling shared service focused on application delivery velocity: shipping software ever more rapidly with minimal risk.
    • Establish centers of excellence across each layer of the cloud for self-service delivery of capabilities.
  • Tools: shifting to dynamic environments.

    • Use tools that support the increasing ephemerality and distribution of infrastructure and applications and that support the critical workflows rather than being tied to specific technologies.
    • Provide policy and governance tooling to match the speed of delivery with compliance to manage risk in a self-service environment.

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