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The Cloud Center of Excellence

Clemens Reijnen
December 30, 2016

A flexible, cheap and innovative business is the main goal companies have. Moving to the cloud, change the way of working and make the systems more flexible are three drivers to reach this goal.

Three forces are pushing the continues DevOps evolution: The Cloud Platform force, The System Architecture force and the Collaboration Force.

3 forces and 5 tips to stay relevant on changing DevOps.

Just opt-in for a cloud subscription isn’t the silver bullet, neither adopting a faster release cadence. All three must be focused on.

A Cloud CoE is a service and practice center with deep and width knowledge on cloud platforms, design, delivery and run of cloud systems. The breadth and combination of development and operational knowledge make a Cloud CoE an accelerator for businesses innovation. Automation, templates, practices, solutions and services support the organization in the adoption and usages of the cloud. With automation, teams can start to focus on business functionality immediately. Organization-wide principles and practices will make sure systems are ready for operations with a uniform implementation and a feedback loop back to the business ready to use.
  • Accelerator on businesses innovation.
  • Focus on business value.
  • Systems with Cloud Born principles, The Twelve-Factor App.
  • Uniformity
4 Reasons why a Cloud CoE is valuable for any organization. Not only the focus on Cloud technology is necessary for a Cloud optimized CoE. The focus, even more as on technology, also support a way of working.
  • Support value delivery and feedback.
A way of working which are followed by the Cloud CoE to the max.


It is not the goal of a Cloud CoE to control, to restrict teams. The Cloud CoE is in place for guiding and speeding up teams on Cloud adoption. With on-premise monolith systems, the control of running out of the boundaries of the data center and system required a lot of restrictions. Boundaries which don’t apply (are different) for Cloud teams. The Cloud CoE makes the understanding of cloud systems wider within teams, what the principles are and which strategies work.

Netflix Culture: context, not control


Enable instead of control is a culture change. Give control away requires a different behavior pattern within the organization and isn’t easy to reach. Setting up a Cloud CoE with the traditional control pattern will not bring the business to the level of maturity and innovation it expects when they approved the Cloud CoE budget. A Cloud CoE must focus on enablement, not on control.

COEs are great for controlling new technologies — but that’s not what the cloud is about.

The downside of cloud centers of excellence.


All activities, services, solutions in a Cloud CoE are automated as much as possible. When principles and guidelines take too much effort, no one will follow it. Principles like “enabling continuous deployment for maximum agility” (see The Twelve-Factor App.) require a comprehensive CICD pipeline. The Cloud CoE provides automated provisioning of these pipelines for teams. Getting the benefit of following principles without worries and time. Open up the team capacity to focus on business value and innovation.

“Stop trying to turn all your developers into DevOps pros, rather speed up on business functionality…”

IaaS isn’t your only path to outsized gains


Thin. Less is more.

Big written sets of principles, practices, guidelines, reference architectures in documents and a wiki. All are useless when no one follows and reads them. Too often a CoE is a document focused exercise by a set of architects with no practical experience. Architects with KPI’s on a number of pages written and diagrams drawn. Following Lean principles when working on Cloud CoE artifacts will help on focusing on value. Lean elements such as Flow, Pull and Kaizen should be used, as are incremental improvements. Value is optimized and waste is minimized.


Knowing how systems are realized, how systems and teams behave. Knowing which team makes the most valuable, innovative and cost efficient business service is most valuable. Provide tools and enable platform capabilities for insights for teams on usages by users and on the cost efficiency of the system. Helping teams to learn is a core responsibility of a cloud CoE. Providing insights, so teams can learn, is even more important than big bad ass documents. Focus on waste. With insights, a Cloud CoE also can make a decision which practices to pull from teams and share it across the organization.

Share knowledge.

The real knowledge is in the teams. The teams realize the business functionality, they have the practical knowledge and innovation. Unless than strict teams to follow references architecture, provide a team with knowledge from other teams who perform better on specific topics. See topic one unable don’t control. Knowledge sharing from the teams and share it. Focus on continued improvement, value delivery and minimizing waste of time and resources. By pulling practices from teams, instead of pushing guidelines to them the Cloud CoE can stay thin and lean.

Cloud CoE

A Cloud CoE should have an answer every team asks.

“What slows my team down in delivering business value?”

Ask this question within your company will result in interesting answers. From missing environments, missing knowledge, old habits and architecture challenges. Having the whole organization focusing on faster value delivery is challenging. A Cloud CoE enables teams, not control. Be small and lean with a focus on sharing practices between teams, practices gathered via insights and shared with automation. Image courtesy:

About the author

Global CTO Cloud and DevOps leader | Netherlands
Creative thinker, solution and service builder. 20+ years of success with complex innovative software systems. Innovate on DevOps and to move to the Cloud and build Cloud services.


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