Judging from the hype—and from the very real benefits—you'd think that cloud computing would be a mainstream enterprise technology by now. It's not. It's getting there, but adoptions rates are uneven from industry to industry and from country to country.
There are still plenty of businesses out there that don't trust the cloud, don't think it will live up to the hype and don't think they need to take steps to prepare for cloud adoption anytime soon. One reason for this is a common misunderstanding. To many people the term "cloud" means one thing: a public cloud.
Even if your company was an early cloud adopter, exactly what the term "cloud" means is likely changing as your cloud efforts evolve. Yesterday, "cloud" could have meant the ability to acquire excess capacity quickly from a service provider. Or perhaps it meant creating additional flexibility on top of a virtualized infrastructure. Today, many of those who are bullish on cloud computing think of it as synonymous with IaaS or a service-based infrastructure with chargeback capabilities.
This is one of the problems with the cloud's hype cycle—no one agrees on specific terminology, and "cloud" is thrown around so loosely that you can't blame the cloud-wary for being confused.
Here are five common misperceptions that are slowing adoption, and five reasons you should get over them:
When cloud resisters use the term "cloud," it's usually synonymous with whatever their biggest cloud fear is. Chances are, they're thinking of a public cloud that is poorly secured and which careless employees are using to store sensitive corporate IP.
At trade shows, I've had the experience more than once of discussing the cloud with someone who lists reasons why his or her organization is steering clear of the cloud, and then in the next breath the person will sing the praises of Marketo or Salesforce.com.
The major software vendors are all shifting from shrink-wrapped software to cloud-based services. They may not label their services as "cloud" services, but that's what they are. And as the cloud matures, finding exactly what you need from SaaS to IaaS to PaaS to storage and even security as a service is getting easier and easier.
Moreover, as mobility in the workforce increases and as more businesses adopt BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives, it is the cloud that is responsible for much of the smarts of smartphones.
Overcoming a fear-based definition of the cloud and instead shifting to a how-can-we-take advantage mindset allows organizations to pick and choose the cloud services (and infrastructures) that align with business goals. For some, that may be cloud-based disaster recovery. For others, it could mean transforming the entire data center—or avoiding the need to build a data center in the first place.
We've seen this before. A new technology comes along and captures the imagination of consumers. Wi-Fi and smartphones are two good, recent examples. Then, slowly but surely, these technologies creep into the business world informally and outside of IT's control.
It's kind of like kudzu growing alongside southern highways. You don't notice it at first, and then, bam, it's everywhere, and there's not much you can do about it.
Judith Hurwitz, CEO of consulting firm Hurwitz & Associates, recalled working with a major financial organization as it transitioned to the cloud.
"As a huge company with significant computing requirements, having the ability to experiment with new ideas and new innovations was a challenge for them," Hurwitz said. The status quo was that when business units wanted to start a new project requiring computing resources, they would come up with a proposal, request funds to purchase servers, software, etc., and then wait and wait and wait.
Using traditional infrastructures, these experiments could cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars to implement, so each potential project would be scrutinized closely.
"The pressure to select the right projects to pursue was huge, so the finance team in each business unit would be hesitant to approve this type of investment quickly. They needed to do all their due diligence, which takes time. In the meantime, the innovators in the business units found they were losing opportunities," she said.
Of course, anytime innovators are told "no," they figure out a way around the problem.
In this case, that meant turning to cloud providers like Amazon. "If the project was successful, they would beg forgiveness," Hurwitz said. "If it was total failure, the cost was insignificant, and no one would know. The charges were filed under 'miscellaneous' in a report."
What this meant, though, is that this organization was indeed a cloud adopter, despite what their official policy said, and there was no going back. "Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back in," she said. "There are security issues and compliance issues, but what happens is this is all tossed back into IT's lap. This is the same thing that happened with the adoption of client servers. These projects start out as departmental, get bigger. And then they're unmanageable, and IT has to step in."
Of course, if you can report a cloud service as a "miscellaneous" expense in your budget, cost isn't a major stumbling block.
However, in an enterprise environment, even free services aren't free, since you have to worry about security and compliance. The free mindset has trickled into the data center, where the perception is that virtualizing infrastructures and shifting to private cloud architectures will pay for themselves almost instantly.
They may over time, but it's not that simple. And vendors aren't helping matters.