Everyone has an opinion on the best way to leverage cloud technology. And with all the hype out there, it’s hard to know what’s just hot air and what you can actually use to your organization’s advantage. Our CIO Kevin Wright sat down with the Softchoice Advisor to give some straight talk on successfully riding the cloud computing wave.
Q: With a lot of breakthrough innovations, there’s often a lot of initial hype then a reality check. Where’s the cloud on the so-called hype curve?
Coined by Gartner, the hype curve – or cycle – represents the stages of maturity, adoption and social application of technologies. It starts with a breakthrough, then reaches a peak of inflated expectations, then enters a trough of disillusionment as some hyped expectations aren’t met, followed by more practical enlightenment and productivity. Where the cloud sits on this curve really depends on which part of the cloud you’re talking about. Software-as-a-Service (Saas) has already reached a comfortable and proven level of maturity for the right types of businesses, while Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is getting more mature and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is really still in its infancy and, therefore, still more prone to hype. For me, the cloud sits somewhere between 3D television and e-book readers. With technologies like 3D televisions, you’re still not sure if they’re going to live or die. With the cloud, the economics and technology drivers are unquestionably here to stay.
Q: There’s a lot more caution from organizations around the cloud. What’s driving this?
Any time you go through a paradigm shift or a massive change like this, you can expect peaks and troughs. There’s also the issue of security. Whether it’s Amazon and its recent well-publicized outage that had major websites unavailable for a few days or Sony’s security breach, which forced it to shut down some of its cloud services after the external theft of personal information from millions of its customers, these types of incidents only drive the smartest companies to make their interaction with cloud technology even more secure and stable.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you can give organizations looking to adopt a cloud strategy?
I think there actually a few key elements to keep in mind:
1. You need to elevate your perspective when you’re making decisions like this. You need to comprehend your application ecosystem and your entire environment. Start with the big picture, then dive in.
2. Your strategy needs to start with applications and not infrastructure, no matter what happens with the cloud. The one thing that’s for sure is getting applications in a cost effective, fast, high performance way to users.
3. It’s really more about evolution than revolution. You can’t expect to take an environment and move it out overnight to SaaS or to a public cloud model. You’ll need to do it in a deliberate and thoughtful way, on a schedule that’s right for your organization. So it makes sense to team up with a partner who can give you a long-term commitment – two or three or five years – not someone who’ll rush you into adopting services or technology that are wrong for your business, companies only looking for a short-term engagement.
Finally – and I’m aware this might actually sound like hype! – the truth is the cloud is here to stay. It’s serious business and it’s going to be a constant in our IT lives from here on in so it’s really important to get the strategy right from the outset.
Q: What challenges can organizations expect with their move to the cloud?
First, complexity increases in many places. Things like billing and licensing programs you’ll need to sign up for have to be carefully understood. They’re often complex and have hidden fees. A partner like Softchoice can help you figure it out. The amount of administration and vendors for support that you’re dealing will increase too. This isn’t a space that has been consolidated yet by companies like Softchoice, although were working rapidly to change that.
Integration between applications and environments is very important, too. As you have some applications running in a public cloud, you also have them running in your data center and some coming in from a SaaS provider. The complexity to integrate that data and the infrastructure underneath it becomes all that more important to ensuring your experience using the cloud is successful.
It’s also important to remember that moving to the cloud will feel like a leap of faith. After all, you’re giving away a level of control that you more clearly had before – security is a good example. It certainly takes a shift in mindset to make this happen.
Q: How do you see the cloud evolving in the next 12 months?
Companies will really need to address how to aggregate the multiple services out there. There isn’t a strong channel for these services yet, and I think that needs to change with business models like the cloud service brokerage, which applies to companies like Softchoice. These are companies that – through assessment and service delivery – can help customers navigate the implementation and ongoing management of various service providers so they don’t have to do it on their own.
I think PaaS needs to become clearer too. This is the key to truly unleashing the potential of the cloud in the long run. IT departments have to embrace development environments in the cloud – only then will you see ERP systems and strategic systems move out of the enterprise and into the cloud.