The cloud is now a common facet of enterprise infrastructure and many IT executives have reached a level of comfort that allows them to entrust it with a greater share of the data load.
So it’s only natural that the conversation is starting to shift from “How do I get on the cloud?” to “How do I maximize the cloud for my business model?”
According to Bain & Company, the typical enterprise realizes only 35 percent of the value of its workloads in the cloud. This should be a concern among top IT professionals, says Louis Columbus, vice president of marketing at iBASEt, given that leading organizations have already migrated about two-thirds of the workloads to the cloud. A key factor in these numbers is the fact that many organizations are still trying to recreate legacy data environments rather than pursuing a cloud-first approach to application and data utilization. This should not come as a big surprise considering that spinning up new resources is vastly easier than building an entirely new IT model. Yet it must be done if the enterprise hopes to leverage the cloud to its full potential.
To many observers, the ideal cloud is one that provides a full utility-based computing environment, says Ian Moyse, senior sales manager at Rackspace. In this vision, entire compute environments are created, altered, decommissioned and then recreated with just a few mouse-clicks. In this multi-tenant, elastic universe, costs are based on resource consumption, not provisioning, and infrastructure is parsed out to any number of interoperable vendor platforms. The cloud is, in fact, edging ever closer to this state, but it’s not there yet. Key components still under development include the automation stack and other backend functions like billing and usage tracking. However, there is also the fact that many providers are unwilling to jeopardize current revenue streams to support such a free-wheeling state of affairs.
But no matter how the cloud evolves over the next few years, there is no question it is here to stay in one form or another. According to a recent survey from SAP, 99 percent of enterprises have adopted the cloud as part of their IT strategy and now recognize that it does not benefit IT alone but the entire business model. Over the next three years, in fact, expect many organizations to begin migrating core business functions to the cloud, including R&D, supply chain management and analytics. And many executives are looking past mere cost benefits to improved performance, higher-level functionality by the knowledge workforce and other intangibles.
But herein lies the danger, according to Informatica’s Judy Ko. As we all learned in high school physics, systems that begin in a state of simplicity fall prey to the laws of entropy unless work is applied. A single application deployed to the cloud is amazingly simple to manage; scale up to hundreds or even thousands of apps, workflows and interconnected processes and you have a significant management challenge on your hands. In this way, the cloud is no different from every other IT innovation – from client/server to web apps – all of which led to data fragmentation, application sprawl and infinite layers of code. This isn’t an argument to forgo the cloud, of course, but to make sure that at each stage of adoption it is brought into a cohesive, overarching data strategy.
The truth is, no one really knows how the cloud will fully manifest itself with the enterprise IT architecture. And indeed, its ultimate utility will probably be as varied as the customer base it supports, particularly as increased levels of customization and optimization for particular data loads make their way into production environments.
We can be certain of one thing, however: No matter how good the cloud gets, there will always be someone who says it can be made a whole lot better.
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.