Too many business people see the Cloud as a way of outsourcing IT’s function to a cheaper, newer set of applications. That’s not surprising when you consider that Cloud vendors are going straight to business owners the world over and offering to give their technology tools a radical facelift at a steeply discounted price.
No matter how enticing the argument, you can’t simply rent a BMW M6 and replace the Dodge Caravan in the garage and expect the same benefits and cost. You can’t get a nose job in Tijuana and expect a Beverly Hills result. The world doesn’t work that way.
A little Cloud reality
Business owner, as you reach for the checkbook, pause for a moment to understand what cloud really is and isn’t. Before you think this is a Cloud-bashing viewpoint, it really isn’t but instead is an effort to get honest about something that’s in a tornado of hype at the moment.
- Scalability – Cloud computing is highly scalable, if done right. It is a new paradigm that takes advantage of clusters of commodity hardware that balance the load as it goes up and down through distributed computing. Cloud is a much better way to scale, the reason why many companies have or are also considering private cloud computing which has the benefit of scale without the risk of losing control over the who/where/how of their technology needs (like compliance, security, etc.). Scalability doesn’t necessarily mean Web…it just means distributed computing.
- Virtualization – We don’t need to know where an application runs or where the data is stored anymore because we’re gradually virtualizing everything. Cloud represents virtualization on steroids but that doesn’t necessarily work for everything we need to achieve. Much of the most sensitive work (defense, banking, healthcare) isn’t ready to move fully to Cloud for obvious reasons. This will gradually be overcome but the Web isn’t reliable or resilient enough yet to simply replace the current systems.
- Time to market – This is where Cloud has the sports car look and the Tijuana price. Because companies can introduce a Web-based application like Salesforce through a browser and on someone else’s infrastructure, it looks like it can be used Day 1 without any ‘old system’ headache. This is the gotcha of Cloud computing, though, as enormous intelligence and history is in those older systems. Using Cloud to replace what you have because it looks quick and easy replace your old system headache with an integration headache that aspirin won’t solve. This is exactly why the new Cloud trend is toward Integrated Platform as a Service (iPaaS) as a way to connect legacy systems with Cloud systems and achieve the best of both worlds. TIBCO’s release of TIBCO Cloud Bus yesterday is an excellent example of a powerhouse integration vendor recognizing the need to make Cloud really work for everyone in the enterprise.
These are just a few points where Cloud needs to be better understood, but there are certainly more.
Making IT competitive
What Cloud will likely achieve in the near term (2-5 years) is to cause the CIO and his IT department to take a new look at what the business really needs and find ways to deliver that aren’t nearly as slow, nearly as expensive, and nearly as limiting to the business. It’s a very good thing for the internal people to feel the pressure from the external and very likely ends up with a win for everyone, but only if we do this the smart way.