Is your cloud strategy being driven by a credit card?
Fri 13 May 2016
The attraction of the cloud is clear for many businesses. The idea of IT services that are available on-demand, and that can be scaled up and down as desired to always meet the organisation’s precise needs at the best cost, is a powerful one. However, seeing the benefits of the cloud, and realising those benefits, are two very different things. Too often, an organisation’s move to the cloud is blocked by two related issues: a lack of understanding of the cloud, and a lack of strategy.
Understanding the cloud
This lack of understanding appears in how organisations view the public versus the private cloud. The public cloud seems the easiest for anyone in an organisation to understand; you simply approach a service provider with your credit card, and have that service up and running near-instantly. What is often lost is that the private cloud should offer exactly the same level of service. This encompasses more than simply creating an in-house virtual infrastructure, it involves changing the organisation’s entire in-house approach to IT. What this means, is that organisations can often be caught unaware by how complex and costly creating a private cloud that operates as expected can be. In a recent survey of 1,368 organisations, 66 percent of private cloud builds took over a year to complete; a far cry from the near-instant expectations of the public cloud.
Worse still, this lack of understanding means that the costs of implementing cloud can be drastically underestimated. In the same survey, SMEs that were planning private cloud builds gave an average estimated budget of $148,605. Yet SMEs that had already completed builds revealed an average cost of $898,508: more than six times the estimates. As a result, it’s likely that those who are planning their private cloud builds will need to either adjust their expectations or accept that their private cloud will need much more time to provide a return on investment.
Strategy and planning
Perhaps the most surprising survey result was how many organisations lack cloud strategy. 57 percent of organisations have no multi-cloud strategy; which is particularly concerning when the ability to manage multiple clouds is a cornerstone of any eventual hybrid cloud approach. Similarly, 35 percent had no private cloud strategy, and 28 percent had no public cloud strategy. This doesn’t include organisations who have examined the cloud and decided it isn’t for them. Instead, these organisations don’t understand the precise costs and challenges that the cloud will introduce; know how to make the cloud approach work for them; and aren’t choosing technologies that will supplement cloud adoption.
One explanation for this is, as mentioned above, the assumed simplicity of the public cloud. If anybody in the organisation can use their credit card to set up IT services as and when they feel they need them, how can IT as a whole ensure that it has an overarching strategy and control over the cloud? However, if allowed to run rampant, this approach will result in an environment where services are duplicated across the organisation, and workloads are placed where the last individual bought capacity, rather than where they will provide the greatest value to the business.
The question for many organisations is still when, not if, they make the move to the cloud. Yet these organisations need to understand the cloud and build a strategy around its own unique challenges and assets, instead of using traditional approaches that don’t address the nature of the cloud. For instance, workload priorities in the cloud are often treated as static. Yet the infrastructure housing those workloads, and the ongoing needs of the business, are completely fluid. If an organisation can’t reconcile these facts, it will soon find itself squandering the potential the cloud offers.
Similarly, any cloud strategy needs to include control over who purchases cloud services, how they do it, and when they can. Once purchasing is centralised, IT can ensure it uses its assets in the most effective way, for instance by automating workload allocation so that services are always provided with the best performance for the best cost. Without such a strategy, or worse still, one that simply follows whoever has access to a corporate credit card, the cloud will never perform to its full potential.