Why 2014 will be the year of cloud assimilation and confusion

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The New Year is a time when many analysts reflect on what occurred over the last year, and what is likely to occur in the forthcoming year.  However, I think it’s a good time to look at what has occurred in the last several years, and what is likely to occur in the years to come.

A lot of people write about cloud computing these days.  However, I’ve been in this space since the 1990s.   With the rise of the Internet, it seemed like a natural thing to leverage this massive network to share IT resources, not just content.  However, it’s an idea that most found difficult to grasp.  So, I knew the movement to cloud computing was going to be a long trod of attempts and failures.  Moreover, enterprises pushed back on the idea of cloud computing, typically for lots of pretty good reasons.

We’ve since moved through the introduction phase of cloud computing, where we became comfortable with the concept.  From there we went to the experimentation phase, where we attempted to figure out what the big deal was about.  And now we’re on to the assimilation phase, where we accept cloud computing as a true technology option that has value, and thus must be understood and leveraged (see Figure 1).  Moreover, it’s just politically correct to drive toward cloud computing these days.

Cloud Growth

 

Figure 1: The use of cloud-based technology has moved through introduction, to experimentation, to assimilation.

The issue that concerns me is assimilation, which seems to come with a great deal of confusion within the enterprises I deal with.  The problem?  They feel compelled to move core applications and data to the cloud, but they don’t have a good grasp on how to accomplish that goal.  Moreover, cloud providers are not helping.  Instead they provide confusing and conflicting information to enterprise IT.  Add this to the fact that cloud skills are in short supply, and enterprises seem to be in trouble.

There are three areas where most of the confusion and concern exists:

  • Application migration best practices and approaches.
  • What to do with PaaS.
  • Security, compliance, and governance.

Application migration to the cloud is confusing because of the conflicting paths that cloud providers suggest.  There are those that promote a lift-and-shift approach to moving to public clouds, where the application exists on-premise one day, and on a cloud the next.  There is a minimum amount of redevelopment and redeployment.  However, there is also no optimization to leverage native features found on many cloud-based platforms, such as auto-scaling and auto-provisioning.

The true path to most cloud-based platforms is an overhaul of the existing application architecture and code so it’s able to take advantage of “cloud native” features.  Does that sound like a lot of money and time?  It is.  The right path for most enterprises requires a great deal of understanding about what you have, how to improve it, and what cloud to put it on.  Most enterprises don’t have a clue as to how they should begin, and most providers don’t know what to tell them.

What to do with PaaS.  As we move to cloud-based platforms, we certainly want to use the tools that are native to the resources we’re provisioning on the clouds.  Most of us want to leverage up-and-coming PaaS offerings such as those put into the market by Google, Microsoft, or AWS.  However, PaaS is not that cut-and-dried.  Many enterprises that are moving toward PaaS as a development and deployment standard, even a path to DevOps, are often disappointed by the true productivity that this platform provides.

Security, reliability, compliance, and governance are what most providers push off as unfounded concerns.  I love the often-used analogy; “You put your credit card information on the cloud, don’t you?”  Well, ecommerce sites don’t host critical and sensitive business data, nor do they provide mission-critical compute services.  The fact of the matter is that most of those in the “cloud business,” including providers or consultants, have done a poor job of providing true solutions to protect and manage data, and many are not great at helping the enterprise avoid legal troubles around compliance.

Think of 2014 as if we had a huge party the night before.  Now we’re up and 10 cups of coffee later, we are trying to figure out just how the sofa got in the tree.  Enterprises that rushed headlong into cloud computing in 2013 are asking similar questions right now.  The work to move the enterprise to cloud computing is just that…work.  Moreover, there are more key questions to answer in the forthcoming years, and the reality is that enterprises must answer those questions themselves.

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