Life in the Cloud – George Watt
Three reasons cloud computing is more than hype, and how it is improving the delivery of business services
Even with recent announcements and case studies documenting the value and potential of cloud computing, there is still much discussion about whether business and IT leaders are ready to take concrete steps to adopt it. I believe business and IT leaders are ready to take advantage of what cloud computing has to offer, though perhaps surprisingly, I’m hearing this more from the business than IT.
A recent survey of North American and European technology leaders conducted by Management Insight Technologies found that 80% of enterprises surveyed (92% of those representing large enterprises) had at least one service in the cloud with slightly more than half stating they had six or more services in the cloud. (You can read more about the survey results in Jay Fry’s recent post here.) That alone may be sufficient evidence, though when presented with facts in this fashion I like to ask what would have driven them to be as they are. What might the root causes be? Are these numbers just a blip on the radar, or is there something more to them? In this case, I believe there is more.
There are several things, beyond the rhetoric that are driving business and IT leaders to accept and adopt cloud computing.
Trust created through widespread adoption of consumer cloud services.
People of many diverse backgrounds and experience, not only IT professionals, have been widely adopting cloud-style services such as TurboTax.com, Carbonite.com, and MobileMe for quite some time, at least in relative terms. These services have proven to be reliable and valuable, and people are not only beginning to believe that their data is safe in the hands of these providers, they believe it is safer than the data they care for personally. (Ask a user of these services whose laptop crashed and took with it all of the photos of their child’s graduation…) Similar services targeted at small and even larger businesses such as Mozy have carried that through to the “enterprise world.”
Widespread use of social media such as Flickr and Facebook (which now claims more than 500 million users and over 700 billion hours of use a month) have made millions of people more comfortable working with and sharing information in the cloud, and better educated on how to do so safely.
This widespread exposure has certainly made business people and business and IT leaders more comfortable with cloud solutions, but there is more to the story. First, these things have resulted in changing the way people solve problems. The use of complete services provided off-premise by a cloud company is now commonplace thinking. And it gets even better than this.
Widespread use of social media and consumer cloud solutions raises consumers’ expectations of how software should behave.
This is a tremendously exciting development. Enterprise software can be frustrating. I realize this may be an overly broad statement, particularly considering I work for a software vendor, but I’ve been a user of enterprise software too. It can be frustrating to acquire, frustrating to deploy, frustrating to maintain, and having negotiated many software contracts I believe it’s not too far off the mark to classify that as a dark art. Not so with consumer software and social media. Thus, the software consumer is now aware of how simple every interaction with software could be. (“I need to think of an ID and password, to supply my credit card number, and to be capable of using a browser.)” And that is great for the industry.
So, what’s the really good news in all of this?
With simplicity comes agility, speed, and flexibility.
There has been a lot of discussion on the cost advantages of private and public clouds. As a former private cloud provider I can attest that those benefits do exist, but it’s not always just about the money. The most common reasons people “moved to the cloud” are for business agility, speed of delivery, and flexibility. In fact, it was an agility challenge that drove our team to build our first private cloud here at CA Technologies six or more years ago. Of course the substantial cost savings did help with our business case, but our real business issue was the need to reduce product delivery times while increasing product quality.
We are hearing more and more stories of enterprises dropping systems in order to obtain the flexibility, speed, and agility (and in some cases reliability) of cloud solutions – even opting to abandon systems into which they had invested millions of dollars. We’ve had to make some of those tough decisions at CA as well.
In addition to speed, agility, and flexibility, the cloud may also result in more visible/transparent pricing. Earlier I inferred that in order to successfully negotiate an enterprise software contract one required a degree from Hogwarts. Though I will not predict that the last software negotiator “will be unplugged on March 15, 2016″ (my apologies to Stewart Alsop for the reference) pricing of cloud services is, and is becoming, more transparent. This should help to level the playing field, especially for smaller businesses.
So, is business ready for the cloud? I believe so. The promise of the cloud is to deliver valuable business services while insulating the consumer of those services from the complexities involved in their delivery. Isn’t that what IT was always about? So it’s good news we’re finally “getting there.” Cloud computing is like a band that took 20 years to become an overnight success, and a pragmatic approach to the adoption of cloud services and technologies will enable business to reap the benefits of the evolution of our industry.
Skydiving image courtesy of stick.exchg.
Originally Published: January 21, 2011