There is a myriad of cloud solutions out there today, and the overcast of terminology has created sometimes “thunderstorm” that have led to “lightning strikes” on poorly grounded consumers. The concept of Cloud has been overly explained, demystified and equally “Cloudified” by so many sources, ideas and concepts. In-fact to be in the ICT space and still lack clear appreciation and understanding of the basics and ideas around Cloud is somewhat a forgivable “sin”, for you are not adding to the “chaos”.
Cloud technology has given birth to a new array of services such as Infrastructure services, Platform services and Software services. As Cloud adoption spirals up with increased value proposition to consumers (enterprises and personal), the offer of “lean” and “Agile” IT options becomes very palatable. But are consumers lining themselves up for a potential “lock-in” or “cost-traps”? This is a question that needs to be answered now, than in the future, as the Cloud sprawl continues.
Hybrid Cloud technology have become caveats that enterprises are looking to as means to an end. Maintaining Control and yet leveraging the benefits of Public and Private Cloud for secure ubiquity and elasticity are a delicate balance consumers are asking how to address now. Hybrid Cloud is inadvertently emerging as a mainstream for businesses to truly utilize Cloud solutions. The path between public, private and hybrid Clouds will create new service offerings for Cloud on-boarding and orchestration, but the challenges in managing demand, capacity, performance and openness will have to be balanced in terms of cost now and potential cost in the future.
Will Cloud be an expensive venture in the future?
“Cloud” technologies are meant to shield adopters from “behind the scenes” complexities of IT operations –acquisition, installation, deployments, maintenance etc. With cloud cluttering increasing at various services layers – Platform, Software, Infrastructure, there is a hodgepodge of apps and services that are mushrooming, with each having their own proprietary or adopted approach to delivering access management, data management, security/resource and functions. This gradual trend, as “Cloud” adoption increases, will lead to new levels of dependence on Cloud “vendors”. Adopting Cloud on a face value without understanding the technologies and foundations enabling the services can be a missed opportunity in the future if little attention is paid to understand both your business strategy, circumstances and the technology evolution.
Even with Open frameworks and technologies emerging (e.g. OpenStack, a global collaboration of developers and cloud computing technologists producing the ubiquitous open source cloud computing platform for public and private clouds.), potential for lock-in with a Cloud service provider are high. Given the ongoing investment to improve efficiencies and increase optimization of technical administrative activities, these relatively explainable Cloud vendor “improvements” and “service increments“ are justified as Cloud service providers seek to reduce cost of services as much as possible.
Questions consumers need to ask must be guided first by their medium to long-term business strategy, local and regulatory conditions that can impact on both conditions of local and regulatory regimes on their strategy. The OpenStack project is one such initiatives that intends to help organizations enter into Cloud technology application using a standard-oriented library. So far, the Linux community increasingly adopts Openstack within the core of their Operating System libraries, and this trend continues but without clarity from the big 4 (Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Google). OpenStack promises easy cloudification (the act of turning a product or service into a Cloud versions) at an important layer, the hardware, and promises the potential of migration smoothness from one hardware architecture to the other. With Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers – Amazon and Microsoft having different on-boarding foundations, the potential lock-in therefore looms. Levels of interoperability promised by some Cloud vendors comes with a fine print that many consumers haven’t yet scrutinized in line with their business future. So the question of “will the path to providing a truly public ready and inter-working Cloud promise for, say, IaaS ever be?”. The answers are hazy.
The author of Wikinomics, Dan Tapscott, described the growing complexity of what’s to be the Public Cloud as – “look[s] increasingly like a traditional librarian’s nightmare — a noisy library full of chatty components”. The question of how to sift through the noisy library and gain authentic positioning that guarantees consistent foundations and protection for future adoption is key. Consumers need to have clear details on the “content” of Cloud solutions before they make the leap, at the same time remaining nimble to changes in – strategy, local conditions and regulatory dimensions.
Failing to plan Cloud adoption with a look into details on the composition of Cloud services may be a danger that consumers may need to begin to take serious. All Clouds aren’t the same, indeed they are not, and some may look “calm” for adoption but with a thin silver lining that requires evaluating what a move to Cloud signifies to your business, especially now and in the future. Cloud on-boarding may be as simple now as vendors will tout, such as with major Software solutions already in or moving to Cloud e.g. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). The Cloud promise will be short-lived for many businesses, indeed the aftermath could be “sun burns” for many. The offer of an agile IT environment with Cloud must be well identified and assured on a business-by-business basis, for it’s not just a guarantee that the promise of agility is in toto.
On the other hand, new forms of services will emerge to enable and ease the Cloud sprawl with concepts around “On-boarding” and “Disengagement”. Driving “Orchestration” and “Cloud Management Services” will become new streams of professional solutions intended to shield consumers and adopters from the “back-end” of challenges around needs for migration from one Cloud to the other. Managing between Clouds (Hybrid/Private) will eventually end up becoming layers of complexities that consumers, would have little or no skills to address. These services will require a new era of services life-cycle skills, including business process re-engineering. E.g. How to manage journey from one SaaS to the other, integration of PaaS and IaaS platforms, and managing the full Cloud stack with complete transparency and fluidity at no business impact.
Key cost traps need to be well planned for as adoption continues on the upward journey, and cloud varieties and increase in compartmentalization requires watching our for the following key traps.
The dream of lean IT promise brought by Cloud is now made true. Technical skills may have been let go or re-deployed into other domains. Now the need to manage the new complex Cloud breakdown as consumers and IT teams try to bite-in on lower priced compartmentalized Cloud solutions will require new skills, technically savvy oversight responsibilities, hybrid professions and expertise that may as yet not be available or within immediate reach.
Cloud service providers bring management dashboard to provide consumers up to a level of visibility, but limited to what you need to remain on-board. If you’re not in a position of know-how about the application (E.g. SAP), your use and the environment, then how do you correlate a solid plan to manage for a “rich” control and therefore Agility? Also, correlating multiple dashboards and reports in order to figure out performance issues or bottlenecks in Cloud-based service models is a whole new level of experience that comes with added need to have the requisite layers of expertise to help manage.
Managing the path back from Cloud could be a series of interworking with various Cloud players and service providers. This can mean a cumbersome underpinning process that must be decoupled and reassembled for own control. How will your business process and data management needs be fully and readily map-able to your on-premise solution?
The cost of bringing services back in-house due to regulatory change (e.g., stricter data privacy laws) must be understood upfront and re-accessed continuously by a savvy business-IT function on a year-to-year basis. The need for a holistic management model requires understanding risks and assuring the business of budgetary capture of what countermeasures may be required to mitigate any potential risk to the business. Managing Cloud solutions is therefore not as simple as just having dashboards, but ensuring the tools and kits required to disengage from Cloud are available.
…Integration – From Business requirements into IT enablement
In the Cloud, integration between applications may look simple, but can be a complex interworking process where different Cloud technologies enable services.
If your adoption to Cloud is through SaaS, for instance, then you will have series of applications in the public Cloud that need to interact with other applications within your enterprise Private Cloud or other Public Cloud services. You will have to learn the new environment, particularly if you consume SaaS services, understand the business mapping needs and translate them into your Cloud processes in order to deliver the business mandate. E.g. Integrating SalesForce Cloud CRM environment with an SAP Cloud service for Order Management. This clear business requirement can be an overwhelming task if lacking the knowledge, skills and expertise of both SalesForce and SAP.
The requirement to addressing the challenges of integration to fulfill business needs will mean having the tools, understanding and experience to fully map out data, process and technical objectives into clear business expectations. Ofcourse there will be solutions and options, but to what degree the offered solution fulfills business operations quality and timeliness still remains a grey area consumers need to keep in mind.
Then there is the almighty plague of both public and private inter/intra-working – Security. Building secure E2E environment for Cloud based solution requires higher Security requirements. Of course in this area, service providers offering Cloud based security solutions will emerge as service providers to help with the challenge. The question of the security models and the layers of implementation needed may have potential overheads with Cloud offers and their packages, and multiplexing that into a hybrid and private Cloud environment is a level of complexity that’s yet to be fully understood.
E2E Cloud security will require a holistic approach beyond just perimeter based security. Understanding the dimensions of threats in the Cloud, the value of information stored within the Cloud, and how to correlate all the key Cloud service providers to support your service-tree will become a new concern that consumers will have ask and invest in. This means the need to have an integral view of security from day one.
The question of how expensive the Cloud will be must be looked at using the five keystrokes of IT – Strategy, Delivery, Transition/Re-transition, Operations and Improvement. Consumers and adopters need to answer the question by asking and understanding the “now” and the “future” of their business, local environment and potential regulatory intentions.
The Cloud landscape is growing fast and shows a simplified customer facing layer, but has levels of intricate technicalities and complexities that are still evolving. To wait until the time comes to answer the question of what it will cost around the “five key-strokes” of IT is best not left alone but addressed.
Cloud Sprawl is driving new services and providers. New layers of solutions will emerge to try to solve these problems and challenges, but for heads of IT and CIO’s, the need to be prepared, without the “ostrich” approach to the wind-of-change, means applying a business-sanity check to Cloud adoption programs.
It is a crucial step, not so much for those looking at personalized cloud services, such as personal end-user services e.g. Office365 etc, but for the enterprise mission critical needs.
As far as I am concerned, the Cloud has come to stay, not as a concept, but a reality that crystallizes the silos of computing ideologies. But CIO’s and businesses must be ready when it starts to “rain”.