It’s almost impossible these days to view any development in the IT industry outside the lens of cloud computing. Just about every facet of data technology is geared toward either getting on the cloud or enhancing the experience for those already there.
For the vendor community in particular, the cloud has become an obsession–the prevailing wisdom being that those who are not building cloud-ready solutions right now are doomed to the worst fate in technologydom: obsolescence.
The New York Times’ Quentin Hardy summed it up pretty well this week, pointing to Dell’s privatization strategy and HP’s perpetual reorganization in light of the shift from personal computers to mobile devices, which themselves are subsumed into the larger cloud ecosystem. But even as the old guard of IT infrastructure struggles to remain current, relative newcomers like Google and Salesforce find themselves under constant pressure to keep ahead of the next vanguard—companies like Workday and NetSuite who are entering the game with little or no baggage from the bygone years of traditional enterprise computing.
And yet, is it possible that we are jumping the gun just a bit? Perhaps we shouldn’t be so worried that the enterprise isn’t ready for the cloud but the cloud isn’t ready for the enterprise.
According to Gartner, none of the top cloud providers are up to the task of delivering true enterprise-class data services. At best, Amazon scored a 71 out of 100 in meeting the needs of everyday production workloads. This is a sight better than either Microsoft Azure or Rackspace, both of which scored in the mid-50s. But it is far short of the perfect 100 that Gartner says is required to be truly effective. Among the top complaints are a lack of global load balancing, endless preview versions of key applications, poor cloud-to-cloud replication and limited transparency of recovery processes. AWS, at least, offers a broader range of services than other top providers, and Gartner does admit that it could very well score 100 within a year or two.
And Amazon has certainly made it no secret that the enterprise is where it wants to be. The company has been on a hiring binge to acquire top enterprise talent, according to MongoDB’s Matt Asay on ReadWrite, and is tailoring its services toward key business solutions. The strategy is to pitch its cloud as a tool to not merely replace existing enterprise applications and infrastructure, but to bring an entirely new level of functionality that can accomplish specific business objectives. Ironically, this is actually an old-school approach in that it focuses on solutions rather than technology as the main selling point.
For the moment, however, this distinction seems to be lost on the enterprise. According to research by TheInfoPro, upwards of 60 percent of IT professionals view the cloud as merely the natural extension of existing infrastructure, most likely swayed by the arguments that the cloud allows you to “do more with less.” However, this doesn’t mean the enterprise is any less enthusiastic about the cloud. Of those who allocate separate budgets for cloud and traditional infrastructure, nearly 70 percent plan to spend more in the coming years, with about a third reporting a doubling of cloud spending just in the past six months. Interestingly, the primary roadblocks to increased cloud operations are processes and politics, not technology.
Clearly, then, there is still a lot of confusion as to what the cloud is and how best to implement it. That’s to be expected considering any transition, technology-related or otherwise, involves leaving the safety and comfort of the known to the uncertainties of the unknown.
And yet, the cloud is where the opportunity lies, and it’s a safe bet that before long someone will show the world how the cloud can propel data environments to an entirely new level of productivity, and in the process become the next titan of the IT industry.