Most everyone who wants to be on the cloud has done so by now, in one form or another. In fact, many organizations that have yet to embrace the technology formally may be surprised to learn that their employees are already doing so informally.
But even among those with cloud policies in place, it is surprising to leading cloud experts how flimsy many of them are. To be sure, most organizations have detailed notions as to how to get on the cloud via virtualization and logical abstraction, but thought is rarely given to what to do with the cloud once it is established.
Author and technology analyst David Linthicum recently noted that while most enterprises are adept at deploying new technology, there is often a lack of planning as to how it can be utilized to produce the maximum benefit. For example, few strategies include items like governance for either services or resources. This is a biggie because without governance, you merely have another infrastructure stack to deal with rather than a cohesive data environment. Operations planning is also needed, unless you want your new cloud environment to suffer a “slow but sure death.”
Control is the key requirement for any cloud architecture, says IBM’s Frank De Gilio – otherwise, rather than living and working in the cloud, you’re just lost in the fog. Even medium-sized organizations have various business units vying for control of both the technology and the policies directing its use. This is why CIOs need to change their focus from simple infrastructure to enterprise architecture. In this way, the enterprise can view the cloud in all its forms: from the resource and provisioning perspective all the way to programmability and the user experience. It’s a big job, to be sure, but necessary in order to take full advantage of the opportunity being presented.
In fact, to do otherwise leaves the enterprise open to the many disruptive effects the cloud can have, says Covisint Corp.’s Halim Cho. His take is that the cloud is not merely a technology or even an infrastructure play, but could wreak havoc on everything from the enterprise’s organizational structure and even business model. No matter what they sell or what services they provide, every organization is in the data business these days, he says, so those that are quickest to both deploy and harness the new data environment will gain tremendously over those taking up the rear. Cho is due to speak on this topic next month at the Forrester Forum for Technology Management Leaders in Orlando, Florida.
Still, others argue that the cloud is not necessarily the proper data solution for all organizations, particularly when it comes to options like the public cloud. SolarWinds’ Lawrence Garvin, for one, voices an opinion that I happen to share in which key decisions should not be based on technology or architecture at all, but on business objectives. Only by figuring out what you want to accomplish beforehand can you hope to devise an efficient and effective data environment to accomplish it. Perhaps that environment will lead to, or through, the cloud, but perhaps not. The point is, business needs are being met and strategic objectives are in hand no matter what tools are employed.
So while “getting on the cloud” may be a top priority in the executive suite, the consequences of decisions regarding infrastructure development and services deployment are a lot headier than many people realize. The CIO is probably in the best position to point out the ramifications of not having a top-to-bottom cloud strategy, and in the end will be primarily responsible for overseeing what is turning out to be the complete redesign of the enterprise data environment.