To Cloud or Not to Cloud? Is That Really the Question?

Arthur Cole

The cloud is the single biggest development to hit IT since its creation, therefore anyone who is not on the cloud will be left behind in a swamp of obsolescence.

It seems pretty straightforward, but I can't help but think about all the other bold new things throughout history that started off with great promise but ultimately went nowhere − Segways, for example, and Cindy Lauper.

To be clear, there is certainly nothing to suggest the cloud is a fraud. Quite the contrary, it seems that each day brings a new dimension to what the cloud has to offer and how it will change the enterprise for the better. Just this week, we saw a new push to integrate the cloud with the Unified Communications (UC) movement with BT Global Services leveraging the Microsoft Lync platform for enhanced video, web and audio conferencing services to enterprise customers. The program will coordinate with BT's on-premises Lync and Cisco solutions to enable enterprises to scale up their UC capabilities as needed while still offering a high degree of customization that most organizations require.

It also seems that, like it or not, the cloud has taken on a life of its own. With business units able to spin up virtually unlimited resources at will, and usually much quicker and at less cost than by going through IT, there seems to be no way for enterprise executives to prevent its adoption even if they wanted to. As Axway's Paul Moxon put it recently:

“The biggest thing standing in the way of enterprise IT cloud adoption is IT’s unwillingness to accept that business units (BUs) are already adopting the cloud.”

That means IT can either join the movement or face irrelevancy, and perhaps even elimination, as the industry transitions to a more efficient and low-cost means of satisfying its data needs.

If that is the case, then, what could possibly come along and spoil this party? Several things, according to UC Strategies, the first of which is that old Internet bugaboo: metered bandwidth. At the moment, many cloud providers offer unlimited access, but as demand for the cloud increases there is every reason to believe that some form of rationing will be necessary. After all, hardly anyone has unlimited data plans on the cell phone anymore. As well, there is the question of data ownership that comes when information is off-loaded onto someone else's infrastructure. And considering the slow pace at which the law moves in comparison to technology, it could be a while before this crucial aspect of the cloud is fully addressed.

There is also the fact that there are many entrenched interests who see the cloud as a threat to their way of doing business. Established IT vendors like HP, Dell and IBM, for instance, put on a brave face when it comes to the cloud, but the fact is that as reliance on the cloud grows, enterprises will require less hardware. No matter, your say? Data has to reside somewhere, so losses in the enterprise will be compensated by gains from cloud providers? Not exactly, according to Cloud Watch's Jack Clark, given that top providers like Google and Amazon are finding they can build their own hardware cheaper on their own.

So where does that leave us? Are we headed for an all-cloud universe where everyone but the largest enterprises ditch their local IT for low-cost services? Or will it run out of steam before too long, becoming the latest in a long line of products that looked promising but just wasn't meant to be?

My straightforward, unequivocal answer is that it will be neither, and both. The thing to remember is that the IT industry is not a monolith. Rather, it consists of thousands of independent entities pursuing often widely disparate goals, which can be met by a growing plethora of solutions. So I'm betting that the cloud will grow, and traditional IT will probably shrink, but we are not headed for an either/or data environment.

No, this doesn't jibe with the marketing efforts of leading service providers that the cloud is coming, so don't be late. But it does mean that whatever your goals, whatever your current infrastructure, there is a solution out there. It may be on the cloud, or you may find that you've had the capability all along.

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