The cloud is assuming a greater share of the enterprise workload, but this trend is not unfolding in a steady fashion. Instead, a lot of fits and starts are at play as the enterprise attempts to craft a cloud environment that fulfills its needs rather than alter its objectives to suit the cloud.
But since those needs are extremely varied and diverse, it seems unlikely that organizations will be able to fully optimize third-party resources any better than they can optimize their own sprawling data centers.
New research from Forrester is starting to shed some light on the frustration that many organizations are feeling from the cloud. In a survey of 275 IT leaders regarding transparency and feedback from their cloud providers, the company found that about 60 percent of users report that poor operational capabilities, compliance and support is hampering their cloud efforts. And virtually everyone has reported negative results from their clouds, including outages, wasted resources and unexpected costs. This leads about half of respondents to conclude that cloud providers simply do not understand or do not care about clients’ needs.
And yet, this is apparently not enough to slow down workload migration to the cloud. According to Oxford Economics, more than half of organizations believe the cloud will enable new business models within three years, and nearly 60 percent say their cloud-based applications and platforms are better able to manage and analyze data than legacy systems. As well, nearly 60 percent believe the cloud will increase revenue growth within three years, and close to three-quarters say R&D and innovation is somewhat or mostly cloud-based at this point.
It turns out that successful cloud computing consists of equal parts of art and science, says CIO Insight’s Sam Greengard. Part of this involves separating truth from fiction during the cloud vendor presentation. According to a recent report from software developer CDW, most organizations accept claims of flexibility, ease of use and ease of admin as mostly true while security is still firmly stuck in the hype mill. The all-important cost factor still incorporates a bit of both, which indicates that either the costs themselves are not as advertised or they can vary greatly depending on how the cloud architecture is designed and maintained. One thing seems clear, though: As experience with the cloud grows, so do successful outcomes, particularly when it comes to provisioning and launching subsequent cloud environments.
It is also fair to say that many of the things the CIO was hoping to offload to the cloud remain square on the enterprise plate, at least if performance and cost metrics are to be maintained. A key example is auditing, says tech consultant Jon Reed. While it is true that the cloud provider deals with software licenses and other issues, the enterprise must still maintain awareness of user levels, third-party integration and even their own shadow IT problems if they hope to keep costs under control. To avoid this, make sure your SLA includes language as to what should trigger an audit as data and workflows mount.
It’s fair to say that difficulties with the cloud usually stem from misunderstanding and miscommunication. Both the provider and the enterprise approach the relationship with preconceived ideas as to exactly what is to be delivered and under what terms, so much so that they fail to spell out exactly what each expects from the other.
Experience will help shrink this divide by allowing both sides to approach a middle ground: The enterprise will learn what is really possible in the cloud and the cloud provider will learn what it is the enterprise really wants.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.