Integration Still a Costly ‘Hidden Challenge’ for Cloud Adopters

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    Integration permeates all four stages of cloud adoption, from experimenters to companies that are “brutally transforming” their business and workflows through cloud, a recent report by CompTIA shows. In other words, it’s not so much a barrier to cloud adoption as it is a “hidden challenge,” according to Seth Robinson, senior director of Technology Analysis for the firm.

    “Integration pops up in every stage; it’s the one that runs through everything,” said Robinson via a call this week. “Even as, in general, the early stages see more technical challenges and the leaders see more behavioral or culture challenge, that challenge of integration — which is more of a technical challenge — does run through every stage.

    “And that really goes back to what was known for a long time, that integration tends to be the lion’s share of the cost or effort in an IT project.”

    Studies have shown that integration tends to be around 10 to 15 percent of the total cost for any given project. That seems to be replicated in the cloud, Robinson said, although now your IT team has a more limited understanding of the back-end systems.

    Despite integration’s well-established cost percentages, organizations still seem to underestimate or outright forget integration until it becomes an issue, Robinson said. One reason is that companies are so focused on the data migration that they forget to think about integration between clouds or back to on-premise.

    “If anything, cloud integration may be even more challenging for firms as it requires web APIs that may be unfamiliar to the technical team,” he said. “Integration may be complicated by lines of business procuring their own applications without being aware of how they will fit into the overall system.”

    Fortunately for IT, that’s becoming less of a problem. In the past, this situation happened approximately 15 percent of the time, Robinson said, but now it’s closer to 12 percent.

    Still, a “sizeable chunk” of lines of business may consult IT and even keep them informed, but do not actually allow them final approval. CompTIA sees this as one of the big challenges going forward: How do you make that relationship work, so that everyone’s needs and concerns, plus the overall business goals, are considered, while still maintaining agility, security and integration.

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    Originally, there was much to-do about the cloud saving money, and IT workers being down-sized or given more strategic roles.

    “That really hasn’t borne out over any of the years we’ve been looking at this,” he said. “The chance to reduce IT staff has always been at the bottom of the list of what a company says it does.”

    Today, adopters tend to cite other reasons for adoption, including agility, flexibility and the ability to tap into data from mobile solutions, Robinson added. As for IT workers, they are freed to work on more strategic projects or retrained to deal with cloud applications. In fact, the report notes that education is especially important for businesses in the cloud, with the learning curve cited as a challenge by 40 percent of large companies, 34 percent of medium-sized firms, and 40 percent of small businesses.

    This is the fifth year for the Annual Trends in Cloud Computing study, which is the culmination of two online surveys, one querying 400 IT and business professionals and the other targeting 400 IT firms. The report found that more than 90 percent of these companies use a form of cloud computing and 60 percent say cloud solutions make up one third of their IT infrastructure.

    If you’d like to read the full report, it’s available for free downloading with basic registration information.

    Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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