If you ask IT executives about shifting the entire data infrastructure to the cloud, the most common reaction is something like: “Possible in theory, but not practical in real-world environments.”
But that perspective may be changing.
According to Network World, AMAG Pharmaceuticals, a Massachusetts firm that reported $81 million in revenues last year, has moved to a data center-free footprint by shifting its entire data environment to the cloud and BYOD. CIO Nathan McBride says this has halved his annual data center budget to about $1.4 million and reduced the IT staff to four: himself, a project manager, a Scrum/PMP developer and a “data center master.” At the same time, he says the company has been able to successfully replicate the five key pillars of IT in the cloud: backup, email, file servers, security and service.
The notion of just chucking your own IT in favor of utility-style data services is intriguing, but it is also risky. According to Skyhigh Networks, only about 7 percent of available cloud services is deemed “enterprise ready.” While this is a vague term, the company defines readiness using core and non-core metrics, covering aspects like data protection, security and business and legal protections. And the latest figure is down from just one quarter ago, when 11 percent of services made the enterprise grade. Also interesting is the data on cloud fragmentation, which indicates that the average enterprise currently employs 24 different file-sharing services and 91 collaboration services. It seems that rather than getting on “the cloud,” most organizations prefer to use many clouds.
When it comes to trust in the cloud, however, it seems the enterprise is sticking with what, or rather whom, it knows. IDC reports that IBM is ranked as the best IaaS provider in the field today, followed by Cisco, HP and AT&T. Google placed fifth, followed by Microsoft and then Amazon. The survey featured 400 U.S. companies with 1,000 or more employees and asked for ratings on numerous QoS metrics, such as availability, speed of provisioning, simplicity and cost. Among key vertical industries, IBM topped the list in financial services, manufacturing, health care, professional services, wholesale/retail and government, and placed in the top three for transportation and telecommunications.
It is worth noting, however, that like enterprise infrastructure itself, not all clouds are created equal. The trick, then, is not finding the “best” cloud, but the one that most closely aligns with your goals and objectives. Dimension Data recently issued a handy guide showing just how to do that (registration required for the full report), which discusses key metrics on which to evaluate various cloud services. These include ROI calculations for different workloads, integration and automation of dev/test and production environments, core application requirements like control and customization, as well as general concerns like availability and business continuity.
Is the enterprise truly ready for the all-cloud IT environment? Early adopters notwithstanding, it doesn’t seem likely. We still have too much to learn about the cloud ecosystem at this point to trust it completely.
But as experience grows and as the vagaries fall away, it could very well be that some, not all, organizations will find that having on-site data infrastructure makes no more sense than having on-site primary power generation.