Innovation, Technology, and Life in the Cloud

George Watt

Cloud Computing: A look at yesterday paints a picture of tomorrow (Part 2)

What I learned at Cloud Exchange 2011

In Part 1 of this series I discussed the first three of the top five topics of discussion during this year’s Cloud Exchange events (security, resilience/business continuity, data, finance, and user experience). In this post I will discuss the last two items, as well as a few others that almost made the top five.


This is a topic that generated two very distinct types of discussion. The most common was what we might call “cloud economics”. There was discussion of budget constraints and what we call “The New Normal”. There’s a desire to understand the cost of the cloud, with agreement in many cases that organizations do not really fully understand the cost of current on-premise services; which makes comparing business cases a challenge at best. (That is, of course, an understatement.) In my former role as a private cloud provider this is something I had to manage actively, as I was frequently the recipient of incomplete and/or “first order only” business cases.

The topic of “rogue users” or “shadow IT” came up in this context as well. There were stories of out of control costs related to users going outside their IT department to acquire cloud services. Often the per-use rates of the cloud vendors were low enough to be acquired on a company credit card or account; and those charges quickly grew out of control as nobody was looking at overall consumption.

The second finance theme honed in on a partnership between the cloud team/IT team and the Finance team, and around communication with key stakeholders. (One attendee asked: “How do I talk to the CFO?”) If ever you have spoken with me you likely already know I believe this is a key requirement for the success of a cloud team (or any IT team for that matter).

Some raised the point that senior executives often associate cloud only with cost savings. To think only in those terms is to potentially miss huge opportunities to improve service or revenue. Thus, cloud benefits must be included in any business case. One participant summed it up nicely: “(Cost) is important, but other features (of cloud) are of more value: Agility, time to market, the ability to service a Global workforce…”

I was also encouraged that three people from one large company’s Finance team attended one of the events. They saw the potential of the cloud and wanted to take a leadership role to bring its benefits to their business. (Insert a virtual fist bump here.)

User Experience (Performance)

The last, and certainly not the least, of the top five (most mentioned) topics was the end-to-end user experience. What I found interesting is that prior to the past few months it rarely came up. I am hopeful that this is an indication that cloud computing, and the benefits thereof, are generally better understood. It appears people are starting to shift their thinking from “what is it?” and “I don’t think this will work” to “how can I leverage this approach?” and “which services would it benefit us most to move?”

Again, several aspects of this topic were discussed. There was general concern over ensuring the consumer’s experience was engaging, compelling, and pleasant, whether they were an employee or a customer. And a user experience discussion would be incomplete without mentioning the impact mobile devices and consumer driven IT is having on the enterprise. One participant spoke of how they used cloud services to address a global performance issue they had been experiencing. This is something I have seen before as well. (Some similar cases are documented on the Cloud Leaders site. Check out PGi and

Honorable Mentions

So, after thousands of miles of travel and dozens of hotel meals, those were the issues that people were most often speaking about. And this is by no means a complete list. There were many other issues that were also frequently mentioned. Among those that almost made the list were:

  • Where do I begin? / How can I get started? / What should I move?
  • Application consolidation
  • Data center (infrastructure, real estate) consolidation
  • Choosing cloud partners / Selecting cloud services / Sourcing
  • Measuring service / SLAs

None of these can be considered any less important overall, and there were many more. Let me know if you would like me to expand upon, or offer an opinion on any of these.

This year I was extremely fortunate to have spoken with, and learned from, many people. I offer a sincere “thank you” to the Cloud Exchange participants for making this a truly enjoyable and enriching experience. I would also like to thank the other Cloud Exchange presenters: Kirk Laughlin and Steve Kovsky (InformationWeek), Jonathan Donaldson (VCE), and Andi Mann (CA Technologies). It was a pleasure working with each of them and I learned a lot.

This blog is cross-posted at Cloud Storm Chasers.

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This entry was posted on December 28, 2011 by in Cloud and tagged , , , , , , , , .


This site contains articles regarding entrepreneurship, innovation, and the practical aspects of deploying, providing, managing, and using cloud computing, and other technologies. I also share my thoughts and experiences related to consumer driven IT, social media, management issues, and about what some refer to as “soft skills”.

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