By now, most enterprises have begun the transition to the cloud. Whether this results in an all-cloud infrastructure, a cloud-first footing or a combination of hybrid/traditional environments remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The change so far has not been as easy or as productive as it first appeared.
According to recent research of INetU and Think Strategies, nearly half of all companies launching a cloud strategy in the past year reported a halt to their hosting implementations, with more than 70 percent instituting a design change. About 27 percent said they were “extremely satisfied” with their cloud vendor. As has been noted in previous studies, security remains the most significant stumbling block, followed by compliance, capacity planning and monitoring.
But the transition seems to be proceeding unabated as the enterprise attempts to drive greater value from data infrastructure. This leaves most organizations in a bind because on the one hand the cloud promises all manner of advanced data capabilities, and is indeed key to any business strategy for the twenty-first century, but on the other has the potential to wreak havoc on the business model in the here and now.
In the first place, says the Wall Street Journal’s Clint Boulton, the cloud’s much-vaunted cost-savings and resource efficiency are available only to those who also adopt sophisticated management and control platforms. Problems range from provisioning too many resources at the start, failing to implement automated shutdown and load-balancing, and failing to consider the true cost of compute cycles. Advanced functions like dynamic resource allocation and auto-scaling don’t come free in the cloud, and anyone who tries to skimp on these tools in the initial deployment, which includes the individual business managers who simply want to get the work done, will find that the cloud can in fact become quite a bit more costly than traditional data center infrastructure as scale increases.
For many cloud deployments, success or failure can rest on the initial migration, says Stan Roach, chief customer officer of SaaS provider Agiliron. Figuring out what you want to move to the cloud and why is a crucial first step because it can inform the decision-making process throughout the system life cycle. As well, it is wise to become fully versed in what the cloud excels at and what its limitations are, paying particular attention to the difficulties of running traditional data center-facing applications in a cloud environment. It also helps to have an escape plan that preserves data in its original form should anything go wrong with the migration.
And though it may be small comfort, realize that many vendors implementing the shift to a cloud footing are encountering problems of their own. Both Microsoft and IBM are seeing their traditional software licensing models erode even as subscription and service activity picks up in the cloud. The problem is that while the former had proven to be highly lucrative over so many years, the latter has yet to realize the same level of return, so even a highly successful cloud strategy might not justify current stock valuations – and Wall Street hates overvalued stocks.
It seems that while the benefits of cloud computing will be widely felt across the enterprise industry, so too will the drawbacks. Every organization has the ability to minimize the pain, but it will not always be easy to choose the right course of action.
And when all is said and done, we will probably have a dramatically altered view of what the enterprise is, where it lies and what its responsibilities are.
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.