Beware of Too Much Freedom in the Cloud

Arthur Cole

It seems that with all the talk about cloud architectures and how effective and efficient they are, cloud adoption is going pretty smoothly in IT land. Well, it is and it isn’t, depending on your point of view.

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Back to Basics: Objectives for Successful Cloud Adoption

For the business manager, the cloud has been a godsend. Now, when the front office sends a new project downstairs, there is no more quibbling over minor details such as ensuring there are enough resources to bring it in on time and on budget. A quick phone call, a few signed contracts and suddenly storage, computers and applications are available.

For IT, however, the results are more mixed. For the first time, IT has to compete against well-funded rivals or risk losing relevance in the online universe. The simple fact is, for many organizations, internal infrastructure may already be too far gone to provide effective service in the future. According to NTT Europe, more than half of top IT leaders say that complexity of their own systems is the biggest barrier to end-to-end cloud adoption at home. At the same time, more than a quarter say their legacy systems are too valuable to abandon outright, meaning that at some point core business systems will wind up in the cloud.

It is also becoming evident that even among IT professionals there is still a wide knowledge gap as to what the cloud is and how it functions. According to the Ponemon Institute, close to a third of regular enterprise cloud users surveyed say they do not know their own provider’s data protection policies. There is also the widespread impression that security and protection are automatically the responsibility of the provider, although this is not necessarily the case unless it is clearly spelled out in the service agreements.

Part of this confusion is due to the fact that, for once, IT is not driving the adoption of a new enterprise technology. Stakeholders ranging from the CEO to application developers and all the way to end users are becoming increasingly comfortable with the cloud, and decisions regarding its deployment and implementation are no longer based on simple technology or its integration into legacy environments. As AppZero CEO Greg O’Connor puts it, this is a return to a more pure form of IT infrastructure in which producers and consumers reach equitable agreements on data services and infrastructure without interference from a regulatory body (IT).

In the end, IT will have to get past the denial and anger phases and come to embrace the new reality, according to InfoWorld’s David Linthicum. As experience with the cloud grows, security and other issues will fall by the wayside, and IT departments that cling to the traditional role of infrastructure manager may find themselves outsourced into obsolescence in favor of leaner organizations devoted to service delivery and performance. By embracing the cloud now, IT can still play a large role in its development and overall implementation, thereby maintaining its relevance during and after the transition.

Ultimately, I have my doubts as to whether the cloud will produce this open-ended, fully federated data nirvana that has been promised. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but freedom without rules or a central authority to enforce them ultimately leads to chaos. Knowledge workers may revel in their newfound ability to provision their own infrastructure and applications, but they must remember that they are but one member of a larger organization.

As the enterprise steadily increases its reliance on the cloud, it would be wise to remember that collective action is usually the basis for great achievements. And for that you need some degree of centralized control, even if certain individuals may grouse about it.

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