The enterprise is deep into the cloud revolution but there is still no consensus as to whether things are working out for the better or if organizations are simply shifting old problems onto a new infrastructure.
In theory, the cloud is supposed to usher in an entirely new data paradigm in which day-to-day responsibility for infrastructure is either automated or handed off to someone else. According to the Examiner’s Waqar Hassan, the enterprise ignores these and other advantages at its own risk because, like it or not, knowledge workers are already using the cloud to a high degree, often without even realizing it. Actively embracing the cloud in an organized fashion is the only way to leverage the flexibility, collaboration, automated service delivery and reliability advantages that the cloud provides over legacy infrastructure, and to realize the anticipated cost savings to any significant degree.
There is a big difference between theory and reality, however, say the Wall Street Journal’s Angus Loten and Rachael King. Already, word is surfacing about the same old software lock-ins that hamper enterprise flexibility in bricks-and-mortar infrastructure – namely, multiyear contracts that cloud providers use to maintain stable and predictable revenue streams. Often, this is the only way to get the super-low monthly rates that are a prime mover of cloud services, but it ultimately limits the flexibility of organizations to craft and mold the service architectures needed to satisfy dynamic workload requirements.
One of the key insights that enterprises should grasp when deploying new cloud services is that the idea is not just to replace infrastructure but to transform systems and processes for a new era, says Forbes’ Joe McKendrick. This came out in stark relief at the recent Cloud Business Summit hosted by ISG’s Saugatuck Technology division. In a key discussion, it turned out that financial leaders in particular are hesitant to embrace the cloud – most likely due to eons of conservative thinking when it comes to money management. The drawback, however, is that many organizations are finding themselves on a two-track cloud footing, with the cloud gains of dev/ops and data applications users tempered by the performance lag and inflexibility of financial systems.
The good news is that virtually everyone is in the same boat when it comes to the cloud, says InformationWeek’s Nathan Eddy. According to a recent survey by Verizon, close to 70 percent of organizations say the cloud has allowed them to re-engineer at least one process and that more than three quarters believe the cloud provides a competitive advantage. But if the cloud has simply become the way data architectures are supported now, then the advantages are likely to be minimal, at least between firms that embrace the technology in a reasonable fashion. The key is to be neither a skeptic nor an idealist when it comes to the cloud, but a pragmatic who adopts measured approaches to workload challenges and integrates all virtual infrastructure using APIs and advanced orchestration.
At the end of the day, the cloud is like any other resource: Its value is determined more by how it is utilized than the technology it employs.
The cloud is an indelible facet of IT infrastructure these days, but how the enterprise chooses to leverage it is still very much up in the air. And as infrastructure becomes more fungible and data environments more dynamic, the line between success and failure in the digital marketplace will become increasingly fine.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.