Earlier this week I had dinner with a group of senior IT managers. As you can imagine, it’s not possible to take these types of people to dinner without a little (or in this instance a lot) shoptalk entering the mix. However, there was one consistent theme during dinner and that was the migration of corporate IT to the cloud.
What amazed me during these discussions was the level of negativity from these senior managers; key decision makers who are spread across a range of industries. The appetite to start moving to the cloud, whether it is public or private, was low to say the least. The fear of seceding control, increased in security risks, possible impact of future regulations, growing trend of European nationalism and numerous other reasons were cited as strong prohibitors.
Yet this continued fear of the corporate cloud comes at a time when the media is suggesting that 2012 could be a pivotal year for growth. There is a whole range of articles that highlight how CTOs are overcoming their cloud phobias. We even had Aaron Levie, CEO of BOX, state recently that he’d seen an unbelievable transition to CIO-led conversations on enterprise cloud storage. In fact, Levie believes that large corporations are now ready to sign on the dotted line on enormous cloud-storage deals.
We really shouldn’t be surprised when chief officers of large IT integration companies and cloud-based storage firms espouse the rapidity of corporate cloud adoption. If they’re not vehement on this then who will be? However, analysts also seem to be quite bullish about growth here. James Staten, a Forrester analyst, in his 2012 predictions suggests the cloud is now entering its awkward teenage years. During this phase we can expect to see rapid growth, a range of success and a number of failures as the cloud strives to assume its own identity.
Comparing the cloud to an awkward teenager is certainly an interesting analogy and one that my dinner guests agreed with. One of the key challenges that Staten highlights for the awkward teen is budgeting, ensuring that you adequately plan to scale. Ultimately this is a paradigm shift that moves away from traditional IT spend on purchases of physical hardware that are wholly owned and a known factor to pay per use platforms that will vary as demand dictates.
Yet what I find incredible here is that people don’t explore both sides of the coin, especially when it comes to cost. Yes, budgets are going to change and you will move from capital expenditure to operational expenditure but you need to look at the efficiencies that the cloud presents. With a pay as you go model enterprises have incredible opportunities to embrace new platforms, new services that streamline operations and harness productivity. Ultimately the cloud enables enterprises to respond quickly to customer demands and new business opportunities.
In addition to cost benefits, it’s also important to understand the data benefits. Moving to a cloud solution helps you to effectively liberate your data and empower your teams to better understand current processes. I only need consider how Salesforce and its dashboard views have provided me with a holistic scope of operations to see this in action. I now have a detailed tool that enables me to understand workflows and where weaknesses may lie.
There can be no question that we have a long way to go here. The U.S. Patriot Act and its continued rumblings are worrying, as are the responses of France and Germany to build their own cloud infrastructure protected against the prying eyes of the U.S. government. However, we need to overcome these challenges and embrace new opportunities. There’s incredible potential here and it’s time we started supporting the awkward teenager and pushed him on his way to a prosperous and effective adulthood.
Do you believe that corporate IT belongs in the cloud? Do you expect to see mass migration to cloud solutions in 2012? Has the cloud become an awkward teenager and or is it still toddling? Let me know what you think.