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Summary:

Many companies — perhaps blinded by all the hype and marketing claims — are still hanging back when it comes to cloud adoption. They shouldn’t. They should make the move now — but keep these 6 potential pitfalls in mind.

Done right, the enterprise cloud reduces IT overhead, delivers scalability, fosters innovation, and improves the way enterprises work. And that can save time and money.

You’ve heard the cloud marketing spiel … faster, better, cheaper. Those are seductive adjectives. But for some organizations, cloud benefits like that can remain out of reach. Cloud Computing is just so…new, and as some industry experts have oh-so-astutely noted, “much can go wrong.” And that’s reason enough for many to fear cloud computing.

But it shouldn’t be enough to preclude it. Perhaps it goes without saying, but your enterprise will enjoy the cloud’s benefits only with the commitment of organizational buy-in. Will your enterprise’s cloud-computing initiatives succeed? Let’s hope so. Winning in the cloud isn’t difficult, but it’s also not guaranteed. If you’re an IT leader, avoid these rookie mistakes … or your enterprise cloud might just rain down on you.

1. Plan for yesterday

It’s classic IT short-sightedness: “Invest now and relieve your immediate pain!” But here’s the thing: Cloud computing changes everything. Yesterday’s planning involved provisioning hardware for a ten-year lifespan. Today’s planning involves spinning up 10,000 VMs. Overnight. Yes, you must migrate your legacy apps to the cloud. But you also must ensure your cloud supports new, as-yet unimagined, multi-component, polyglot-developed, infinitely-modifiable, dynamically-redeployable applications. That is hardly the status quo now.

Today — yes, today –your application developers are leveraging the cloud to work in completely new ways. Cloud computing has the power to change the way your team thinks about delivering customer value. Change the way you think about IT management. Start from your end user customers and work backwards up the value chain. Then map out a cloud computing strategy to get there. You’ll end up with an IT org that’s proactively strategizing for the future instead of reacting to yesterday’s pain point.

2. Go public…if you’re big

How big is your enterprise? How costly is downtime? How much of a control freak are you? If you answered “massive,” “massively costly,” and “massively type-A,” then the public cloud probably isn’t for you. Outages—though extremely rare—can still occur. “Four nines” uptime sounds great, but it’s also unrealistic. Can your org can handle downtime if your public-cloud data is unavailable?

Public cloud is a great IT-outsourcing option…in a one-size-fits-all kind of way. And when something goes wrong in a public cloud, remember that you’ve also outsourced disaster recovery (and limited your own visibility into recovery efforts). No big deal as long as you don’t mind twiddling your thumbs while someone in hosting tech support seeks the root cause of that outage in the Eastern zone.

3. Go private…if you’re small

Private cloud is great, but it’s not right for everyone. Is your enterprise a small business? If you’re looking at a private cloud solution (even a dedicated hosted solution), expect significant upfront investment in hardware, maintenance, and IT management. Or, look at something more convenient like a cloud hosting provider service. And get to the cloud…faster, better, cheaper.

4. Don’t worry about security

Public cloud providers deliver best-in-world security. And it’s fast and easy to push data to a public cloud like AWS. Your proprietary data’s safe there. Probably. But public-cloud breaches — though extremely rare — (say it with me) can still occur. And they can be costly. (What’s your cloud data worth to you?)

“Hoping for the best” is not a sustainable strategic approach. Plan for redundancy and disaster recovery, whether your cloud is public or private. The private cloud route can be safer, but security is under your control (and as good as your own firewall). In a public cloud, consider advanced security layers—Some private PaaSes served from a public cloud can “individually wrap” your applications, so if a neighboring tenant gets hacked, your data stays protected.

5. Ignore data sovereignty

Does your enterprise have international operations? With most public cloud services, enterprise customers have little control over where their data resides. That’s a sticking point for companies doing business in jurisdictions that require corporate or public sector data to remain within a specific geography. If adhering to such data sovereignty mandates is a priority for your enterprise, consider a private cloud solution…running in your organization’s own datacenters in the appropriate subsidiaries.

6. Wait

Don’t wait and see. Cloud computing’s not a fad. It’s a game-changer. And if you’re not moving to the cloud, then you’re Goliath and your nimble competitor is David, using cloud-computing models to advantage. The sooner your enterprise gets to the cloud, the sooner you’ll realize its benefits.

Bart Copeland, CEO of ActiveState will speak about the evolution of  private PaaS adoption on a panel at GigaOM’s upcoming Structure Europe conference in Amsterdam. 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user  Vladitto

  1. Elizabeth Purvis Monday, September 24, 2012

    Great points, all. Cloud computing really does change everything, perhaps most significantly and subtly, the organizations into which it’s introduced. Recognizing this as a substantive shift in operations and people’s daily lives, strategically planning to bring people along >with< the change is the one way to ensure the org gets the "faster, better, cheaper" benefits it was looking for in the first place. http://bit.ly/CloudSuccess

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  2. I am actually in the process of restructuring a user’s entire system that is part of a large Cloud system. This Cloud was obviously structured from the top down to the end user making it a nightmare to unsramble and put back correctly. The pitfalls to avoid with enterprise cloud deployments should have been a must read for this company.

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  3. Agree that security is an important concern that needs to be addressed. You can’t expect your partner to be secure unless you are able to share your requirements and there’s transparency into how it is provided. Lack of internal skills is a common cloud inhibitor. Developing the skills and internal champions required key.

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  4. Valid points! However a major point has always been how critical enterprise applications like ERP, EDW etc would work on the cloud. Would it deliver the same value as it does for some already proven applications? How would the IT team be impacted by the new roll out? Pragmatically would they go jobless? Cloud is a game changer no doubt but in order to expedite adoption we have to answer such questions too.

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    1. IT works fine with ERPs etc. However, if there is something wrong, like your Virtual platform is down, you are 100% dependent on the vendors. On a different note, the cloud computing does not bring down your overhead much. For me, a control freak, because I have mostly worked with secured data, I would rather go for private cloud within my own data center. Otherwise as an OT manager, I feel like sucking my thumb and tell the CEO, “I have opened a ticket”.

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  5. I don’t agree with “Go public…if you’re big” and “Go private…if you’re small”, in fact I think the opposite is true. The benefits of the public cloud are cheap (at the small scale) and flexible. You no longer need to buy dedicated hardware and the pricing is reasonable for small workloads. However, it’s generally regarded as very expensive to run on the public cloud at large scale.

    For predictable demand and lower cost, building your own private cloud makes much more sense. There’s the upfront hardware cost but ongoing costs are lower. You can then leverage the public cloud for those traffic spikes.

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    1. It seems that the topics are “common pitfalls” as stated in the title of the article. That way the writer’s arguments are coherent with your beliefs.

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  6. If PSK is not in reach than the DLSn is more emanate. Please check with the official OGHSS before you take the big plunge.

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  7. Great article Bart, but I would hazard one issue that seems to have been overlooked in this article. The benefits of cloud computing aren’t overly difficult to sell, it’s the hoary old argument of do more with less boiled down. However, the stumbling block is, and remains, the issue of totally inadequate SLA’s that do not give anything like the protection an enterprise organisation needs, or even a smaller entity. Here is a small example of a clause in the SLA that the Google Enterprise Engine XaaS –

    Google does not warrant that (i) the service will meet your requirements; (ii) the service will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, or error free, (iii) the results obtained from the Google service will be accurate or reliable…

    This indicates that Google make absolutely no commitments regarding delivery of their service, and even when it is delivered, it may be totally unreliable. Such disclaimers are present in the vast majority of cloud services contracts across large and small providers. This is the fundamental cause for not investing in broader cloud offerings until more maturity of the offering and a focused client services ethos is adopted by the current providers.

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  8. Even if your ideas are great, with great growth potentialities, you have to opt for even private cloud provided your means are limited. For small ventures, cloud is the only option until they become big.

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    1. be able to own and control your own data,and you will be charegd for everything you do and you will also be tracked even more so than you are now, this is a nightmare and with the google laptop you can get 16tb of cloud storage for the low low price of 350$ .per month!they have other pricing but you have a better chance of figuring out how derivatives or credit default swaps work than understanding 2 words of their so called pricing structure

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  9. Shibashish Satpathy Thursday, September 27, 2012

    One of the main points to consider which is not mentioned here is “there should be a way to get off the cloud” when you wish to… for e.g. I may be small today and the cloud is the most appropriate way forward, but after a couple of years, as I grow huge, I may have to look at a private cloud… so I should have a way to move from the public cloud to the private one! That should be one of my top-most priority before taking the plunge.

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  10. Rightly said that cloud computing as a ‘game changer’. Business leaders are united about the potential of the cloud to significantly improve capacity and flexibility, create competitive advantages, transform business prospects and generate economic value. A recent survey done by us found that 2/3 of respondents considered security concerns as the biggest barriers to cloud adoption. However, businesses must realize that as long as they avoid the pitfalls, those that do not invest in the cloud will fail to innovate and lose market share.
    – Wipro Council for Industry Research (WCIR)
    Twitter @WiproInsights

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