Those who succeed with cloud computing have one thing in common: They think cloud, they understand cloud, and thus they know how to properly leverage it.
Those who fail don’t think cloud, and because of that they make huge mistakes.
The fundamental problem is that the ability to be effective with cloud computing requires that you think differently about how to leverage computing technology versus traditional approaches. Missing is the ability to understand how cloud computing services become part of an enterprise IT infrastructure. Moreover, you must know how to manage those services over time, as well as make sure they are secure.
When enterprises move to cloud, those in IT leadership typically drive the initial cloud computing projects. These are also the people in IT who are least likely to understand cloud computing technology, so their answer is to apply traditional patterns of usage to leverage cloud-based services as if they were traditional computing platforms.
The end result is . . . well, it works, but it does not really take advantage of all that cloud computing has to offer. Because they fail to gain full value of the technology, the migration to the cloud may hardly be worth the time and expense. Or, in some cases, companies move backward.
So, how should they think? There are a couple core deficiencies that I see in the field:
1. The inability to think in terms of services. Most in traditional IT skipped the movement to systems that are built by leveraging service oriented architecture (SOA) approaches. However, while SOA was indeed declared dead by some, cloud computing makes use of the SOA approach to address how the resources are leveraged.
In the world of cloud computing, most services (including infrastructure services, such as provisioning, storage, compute, security, network, etc.) are accessed via APIs, which are Web services. Moreover, there are application APIs as well as Web services that allow for the integration and use of business services within public and private clouds.
If you don’t understand how to leverage these services or APIs to properly assemble solutions, then you won’t be able to take true advantage of cloud-based platforms. You’ll attempt to leverage clouds as servers in a local rack, using them in coarse-grained and traditional ways.
While some experience the value of efficiency without a good understanding of how to leverage services/APIs to form solutions, most won’t see the larger value of business agility. This means that IT needs to leverage cloud-based services to form, and more importantly, reform business solutions as needed by the business.
Business agility provides the ability to do things such as move into new markets, acquire other companies, and other activities that are typically game changing. In the past, IT has been an impediment to quick change, and thus lacks agility. Businesses can’t tolerate this anymore, and have the potential to become much more agile with cloud computing. That is, if IT can effectively leverage this emerging technology.
2. No desire to leverage servers you can’t hug. Those who leverage cloud computing within enterprises love the idea of moving things to something called “a cloud.” However, they can’t stand the idea of leveraging hardware that’s not in their data center, and thus not under their direct control.
While there is a private cloud option, which is a good fit for some enterprises, most of those who pick and implement cloud computing technology go right to private cloud computing options. While they cite security, privacy, and even some regulatory reasons for keeping the cloud in house, in many instances, they are failing to considering the larger value that public cloud computing may bring.
So, they end up with cloud solutions that actually add servers to the data center, which is counterproductive to what cloud computing should be doing. The attitude seems to be, the business case be dammed, it’s just the way things are.
The compliance, security, and privacy issues around the use of public cloud computing are often misunderstood. Indeed, the majority of reports show that most systems that reside in public clouds are more secure than those within enterprise data centers. This is typically due to the fact that more thinking goes into security planning and use of the right security technology.
On the compliance front, there are often misunderstandings as well. Legal issues around the use of public clouds for specific types of data, such as data leveraged within the finance or healthcare sectors, are often not well understood by those in enterprise IT. While there are restrictions, in most instances the use of public clouds is just fine as long as the same precautions are taken as when data is stored and managed locally.
At this point in the maturation of cloud computing technology, the largest impediment is a lack of understanding how and when to leverage this technology. While education is always cited as a way to get around these issues, the truth is that cloud computing requires a different way of thinking. Unless that changes, you can count on cloud computing to be misunderstood and thus misapplied.