Even though the cloud is becoming old news in the enterprise industry, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to creating the kinds of data environments that meet the performance needs of emerging workloads.
In many cases, the cloud just sort of happened to the enterprise and was simply incorporated into legacy infrastructure with varying degrees of success. The main job going forward, then, is to transform the cloud from a collection of parts into a unified ecosystem, which in all likelihood will prove to be as difficult a job as it was in the local data center.
According to a new report by Logicalis, the divergence of technology and capability across the cloud is substantial. Particularly when it comes to key requirements like data protection, disaster recovery and networking services, clouds can range from basic consumer-level functionality to the ultra-scalable, ultra-secure environments required of health care, financial and other industries. This means the typical enterprise has to worry just as much about over-performance in the cloud as under-performance. The best way to handle this, of course, is to gain a realistic view of the workloads you intend to migrate and the levels of service they require—particularly in areas like uptime, data replication/retention and infrastructure support.
The enterprise should also recognize that emerging workloads in areas like mobile computing and the Internet of Things require an entirely different set of support factors than legacy workloads, says Cloud Computing’s James Bourne. According to a recent report from the Harvard Business Review, collaboration has emerged as the key advantage of cloud-based infrastructure, nudging aside the more general concept of business agility. The report has 72 percent of enterprises increasing their use of collaboration services in the past year, vs. 71 percent saying they are targeting business agility, which the report authors attribute to greater emphasis on speed and flexibility rather than simple cost savings.
Still, there is bad news when it comes to the cloud, or more accurately, the enterprise’s approach to the cloud, says Forbes’ Joe McKendrick. According to IDC, only a quarter of enterprises in a recent survey had a repeatable, manageable and optimized cloud strategy, while the remainder has either a limited focus on the cloud or no strategy at all—simply random deployments on a per-application basis. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that enterprises have been mostly experimenting with the cloud to date. Now that cloud infrastructure is being incorporated into the business model, it stands to reason that organizations will adopt a more systematic approach to deployment and integration. Depending on the level of chaos that exists within legacy cloud deployments, however, this process will be easier for some enterprises than others.
Like any data or technology tool, the cloud is only as useful as you allow it to be. So far, most organizations have reaped the benefits of outsourcing and cost management in the cloud, but that is not likely to provide a sustainable rationale for continued investment for much longer.
Rather than simply using the cloud to overcome the disadvantages of legacy infrastructure, the enterprise should adopt a more forward-looking strategy that leverages the advantages that can be delivered to emerging applications. Without doubt, this will be a challenging exercise, calling into question many of the processes, and perhaps even a few business models, that have guided the enterprise for years.
But the alternative is worse: being outclassed and outmaneuvered by someone who does know the true value of the cloud and how it can provide a crucial edge against staid, stolid competitors.
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.