Cloud

Like it or not, it's time to get a cloud strategy

Ian Hardenburgh suggests that it's time even for anti-cloud hardliners to start thinking seriously about how cloud technology can be leveraged in their organizations.

Regardless if you are for or against adopting the cloud as part of your organization's computing infrastructure and/or as a replacement for that tired, multitenant software architecture of yours, as an IT professional or executive, you need a cloud strategy!

Do you think I sound like a snake oil salesman? Already coming up with the same old excuses as to why the cloud isn't a viable alternative to your on-premise data center? Well, you need to start to get over that bias of yours as you can't argue with a multi-billion dollar industry that is progressively occupying a bigger portion of the technology provider-type market share. (Need evidence of this? Just take a look at Salesforce.com's/NYSE: CRM's last income statement.) Additionally, if your competitors haven't already considered an adoption strategy, they're most likely currently in the process of migrating toward at least a hybrid approach toward cloud computing. It's time to do your diligence and draw up a new SWOT analysis matrix, because your organization will inevitably pay more when it's forced into the cloud years down the road, or lose business to competitors when they're able to capitalize on your indifference.

As alluded to before, there is still quite a bit of distrust and cynicism when it comes to the cloud, especially from IT professionals who've gone complacent and nested themselves between power hungry server racks. I don't mean to sound cynical myself, but the truth of the matter is that on-premise environments actually hinder an organization's ability to scale their technology according to operational business values, or with product or service development. Furthermore, the more an organization concerns itself with the details of running IT services in house, instead of on-demand, the more stretched an already bloated IT budget will become. Not to say that formulating a cloud adoption/migration strategy can't become problematic and expensive (especially for organization's with legacy systems), but those who have the power to make these types of decisions need to start asking themselves how much of their IT budget is dedicated towards application development, and how much is spent on supporting the hardware and software needed to run them.

The same platitudes regarding the dependability, cost and security of cloud-based services just won't cut it these days. If you're an IT professional who reports to an executive and you're throwing a barrier between cloud adoption and your firewall, or you're an executive who usually delegates these types of decisions to "the professionals", stop! The cloud offers a profitable way, in monetary terms, as well as in terms of the unexpected benefits an organization can achieve by adopting what is actually a more reliable and, plausibly, just as secure approach to computing.

In the coming weeks, I plan to make a concerted case for the cloud, and prove how the benefits can vastly outweigh any presumed risks. I'll do this by discussing topics like how IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) on-demand software/platforms can bring about change in both your IT and non-IT related staff alike. Hopefully, in the end, you'll get the sense that by formulating a well-intentioned cloud strategy, your organization will become more productive, cost-effective and capable of allocating your IT resources to scale with organizational goals.

About

Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.

41 comments
jc@dshs
jc@dshs

How many of these wonderful outsourcing ideas in recent years/decades have started off as a short term financial gain but ended up costing far more in the long run and the user has lost some control over aspects of his business decisions as a result? Once "they" have all your data and services safely ensconced on their systems how long before you start paying through the nose and at the same time have little control over security/integrity?

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

I beginning to think more cloud haters read this blog than cloud enthusiasts. I challenge skeptics to address your biases and consider what historical advancements in technology has done for the world. For instance, if not for Henry Ford, would we all still be riding horses just because the are more elegant or pretty? Instead of coming up with excuses as to why not to use the cloud, challenge yourself to think how it can make your users more productive, or how it might save your organization $!

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

Fight with all your might this plague of cloud computing. Why any company in their right mind would let their corporate data out of their control is ludicrous!! Cloud computing has been around for years far longer than this new buzz word. It was and still is being done with businesses that have mainframes. Most all of the data is centralized (in a cloud) on the mainframe. The mainframe is far safer than the internet cloud. It's not if, but when there will be a breach of the internet cloud.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the state and federal laws on privacy require them to keep the data secured and in-house. Since they have to maintain the in-house servers for that, it makes sense to keep it all there. I have suggested to a couple they consider an internal cloud type system, what is essentially a browser based thin client solution using the same technology but on their in-house servers. No Australian company can be sure they still meet the state and federal privacy laws if they place any client or staff personal information on a cloud based server, and thus they're open to major fines and possible time inside.

melbert09
melbert09

I would have to say that moving to the cloud can be a good thing, but it also has its pitfalls. I’m not talking about the technology used, or how secure their DC is, but the most important thing is that the provider that is going to work with you and not treat you like a number. You can have a company with the best technology and the most secure facility, but if they treat you like &%$ or make you jump through 15 hoops to get things done then it’s not worth it. If something goes wrong or a "service" call takes too long the vendor will always try to defend it by stating that they have met their SLA, or "we will look at improving the level of service." I’ve seen too many companies with vendors delivering a bad service where you can’t get things done and unfortunately the company is stuck because they can’t move because of either a contract or it’s too expensive to migrate.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Fast food is a multi-billion dollar industry; that doesn't mean I'll be healthier with a strategy to eat more of it. For reasons outside our control, we've lost Internet access twice in the last three months. The severed fiber line thirty miles away left us running exclusively on in-house resources for almost six hours. We're a relatively stable environment; scaling and 'on demand' aren't concerns. With that said, I look forward to the future articles on this subject. How the shoes are made will be interesting, even if they won't fit my feet.

dogknees
dogknees

What the benefits are for those businesses which don't need the ability to change their systems rapidly? Those that have very stable and predictable needs? If it's for all as the article implies, lets see examples outside big-business. What about technical users? How is it an advantage for my architect friend who has a practice employing 2 people, has stayed at that size for 29 years and has no need or desire to increase his workload or income? Lets forget about the minority of people that work in large corporations and concentrate on the majority for a change. Hopefully the articles coming up will answer these questions.

Slayer_
Slayer_

That is.... the stupid question Should we give up our fast and secure gigabit lines and servers for super slow and unreliable internet lines. And with the death of unlimited bandwidth in Canada, it's a no brainer.

Dyalect
Dyalect

Either way it won't stay there. Pie in the sky, along with byod. Sounds good on paper, but the risks involved are extremely high. Not worth the investment or headache. Control your data.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

Convince superiors and customers that paying indefinitely for something you have zero real control over is a "good idea" and is somehow "superior." It isn't: the loss of control and the inability to confidently or ethically promise an SLA are worth their weight in gold, a fact you will learn the hardest way possible the first time the vendor says that "due to circumstances beyond our control your data is gone! Force mejure!"

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

Many cloud services can be managed in-house. Cloud providers simply set the stage, mostly in terms of hardware or CPU. Furthermore, most private data centers outsource support already as part of a purchasing agreement. For instance, if you experience a crash do to a lost power supply or hardware malfunction, do you fix that yourself? Chances are you call your hardware vendor. Therefore, in what I would think would be the majority of cases, the cloud is equally leveraged in terms of outsourcing. In regards to paying through the nose for vendor lock-in, this should be part of your cloud strategy (ability to migrate data from one provider to another, or scale down compute instances). Chances are, prices are only going to get lower as competition in the cloud increases though. In fact, as stated in my post, the longer you wait to move to the cloud, the more costly it is going to be to remain on-premise.

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

From a pure, 100%, cost point of view, it makes sense - that I concede. My issue has never been about cost, it's been about the lose of control of corporate data. If an individual wants to use it for their private use, that's up to them, but I'm against it. Corporate data is an asset. Loose THAT asset and many companies are in trouble to the point that they could be out of business.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

have had a lot more to do with ensuring compliance and performance in difficult security situations, and thus we're a little more pragmatic and knowledgeable about the issues involved. I know of one educational facility that has multiple campuses in the one city. They decided it was cheaper and easier to have dedicated lines from the smaller campuses that did all their storage and log on through the servers at the main campus. A guy with a backhoe ripped up the comms lines that included their dedicated lines and for two days there was no computer based services or capabilities at the small campus concerned. Until the line was fixed and checked the campus was closed as no one could log on to any computers and some of the high security buildings wouldn't open due to not being able to verify the access codes with the main campus server. The cost to the campus in lost time and services etc was over a hundred times the cost of having the servers duplicated on site - that issue was remedied on all external campuses within a month. These sort of incidents are rare, but in many work areas they are the sort of incident that can't be allowed to happen even once.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

been broken into. 1. A number of companies that offered free or cheap data storage via the Internet have closed down at short notice and not given all their clients / users sufficient time to recover their data before the servers were shut down. 2. Internet based hosting services are a form of cloud computing. In the recent court cases with the company MegaUpload the company that hosted their servers had over a hundred system confiscated by the US law enforcement people so they could examine them. Last I heard the was no talk of handing them back or reimbursing the hosting service for the cost of the systems. The loss of so much assets was a severe financial blow to both MegaUpload and the hosting company, and both may end up closing down despite the fact the early court ruling are the US feds are in the wrong. ............... Now for the scary thoughts:- Picture a very rich criminal organisation setting up a business to offer Cloud Computing Services at a very good price. They don't need to make a lot off the fees they charge, they can make a fortune via data mining of the clients' information stored on their servers and using it to their advantage.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

I'm not familiar with Australian privacy law, but you raise a valid concern. In the states, certain agencies, like the SEC, currently make the cloud a nonviable solution. I'm thinking about tackling this in a separate post, because it warrants it, but I'm not sure I have the energy. Anyway, I have to do more research on the subject, but from my understanding, many organizations are too conservative when it comes to governance and compliance in respect to the cloud. Everything has a trade-off and a certain level of risk. There are definitely certain industries where the cloud is hands off, but you shouldn't rule out the cloud be doing your diligence. Again, this is a great topic. Thanks for sharing!

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

Check out hosting services like Rackspace, as they can provide the attention you require. Of course, you'll have to pay a premium, but again, the benefits most likely outweigh the added cost.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

When a declared that you can't argue with a billion dollar industry, I was claiming that the cloud was dogma. Well, at least in that passage. Regardless if you agree with it, or think its "healthy", you'll eventually have to move to the cloud, because that is the only place even hardware providers like Dell or HP are going to provide a cost-effective solution, because it's more profitable for them to be cloud providers. It's kind of like a "if you can't beat 'em, join in" type of situation.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

In short, if you are a developer, PaaS! Nothing is stopping your buddy the architect from using cloud services. It might just keep him in business for the next 29 years. The cloud isn't about killing jobs, it's about creating more value! Check out my upcoming post that makes a case for business and the cloud. Should be released in the next week or so.

djnathan81
djnathan81

So long as his ISP can guarantee 99.99% uptime then maybe it will work for him. Remember no internet means no access to your documents. If you keep a local copy then maybe he can negate this risk but backups still need to be run on this data which removes one of the benifits of the cloud.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

I think you might be talking about a consumer segment. Not sure your claim holds any water. I like to see evidence of this. Don't think this is the case anymore. At least for your typical organization's requirements.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

So your argument is the complete antithesis of mine. The cloud isn't about headaches, it's about what's best for your organization. On the contrary, it is absolutely worth the investment! Check out my next post that directly correlates the cloud to cost savings and operational benefits.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

What type of control are you talking about Tom. Are you familiar with infrastructure-as-a-service? Can you explain the inherent differences/pitfalls between running a IaaS-based VM versus an on-premise one?

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

Many cloud services offer both LDAP and encryption services (e.g., Symantec's E-mail Encryption Service). Don't let your paranoia/bias misguide you; networking is networking.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

at the laws in Ireland and the UK. Some of those specifically say it's against the law to ship or store the data off shore, but do allow for a cloud storage solution that meets certain security arrangements and can prove the data will never, under any circumstances, leave the country. Now that will be an interesting aspect for the service providers to prove; especially the multi-nationals as even backup copies aren't allowed to leave the country.

bfunke
bfunke

Then if the premium service costs more than having it in house, what's the point?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

in Australia as ALL our Internet access is paid for on download and upload usage for broadband - we have no unlimited broadband deals worth talking about.

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

Locks (and LDAP and encryption) are for honest people. If somebody wants the data, they'll figure out a way to get it.

dogknees
dogknees

Would you tackle the problem of foreign countries accessing my data? Foreign country here meaning the USA and it's security bureaus.

dogknees
dogknees

or even that it can never leave. Make it physically impossible. Like maybe a private network.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

leave that country for any reason, not even as a back up of their site. To provide in country back up of their site they'd need two widely separate sites in the same country big enough to handle the work of all they do in that country.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

Good point dogknees, but services like Windows Azure and Google Cloud Storage do offer the ability to select the country where your data is to reside.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

so anything transmitted through a comms sat has left the country to hit the sat, even if it starts and lands back in the same country.

dogknees
dogknees

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible. - Bertrand Russell

dogknees
dogknees

A packet of data gets routed via another country. Even if it's only there for a microsecond, it still left the country.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

often been spoken of, but people used the older term of 'smoke and mirrors.'

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

hardware - that does not say anything about people having a real need to use cloud services. Think of it like the clothing industry. The high fashion area has a huge profit margin and is highly marketed with a very high publicity, so lots of people are involved in that part of the industry for the big money. Yet the that section only makes up less than 5% of the total clothing sales world wide, the vast majority of sales are in the basic hard wearing work clothes because that's what everyone needs and uses each day. I see cloud computing to be very much like high fashion, high profit for something very showy without any real life useful purpose to most people.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The Business Week link returned a 'Page Not Found'. Maybe it would have cleared up what confused me about your last post. "...you'll eventually have to move to the cloud, because that is the only place even hardware providers like Dell or HP are going to provide a cost-effective solution..." I understood this to mean those vendors would eventually be less interested in selling servers directly to individual customer, that they'd be more interested in providing servers in cloud services or getting into the business themselves. But then you quoted this: "Both HP and Dell want a piece of the action because cloud computing and Big Data boast higher margins and growth opportunities than the PC business." I understand the cloud as more a replacement for local servers than local desktop / client systems. How does the profitability of the PC market force me to the cloud? If no one is going to sell me a client system then how am I going to access resources, whether they're on the cloud or a local server? Certainly not on a phone or tablet. Maybe I don't understand 'cloud' after all.

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