The move to public cloud is not new yet many enterprises still struggle to successfully leverage public cloud services. Public cloud services have existed for more than a decade. So, why is it that companies still struggle to effectively…and successfully leverage public cloud? And, more importantly, what can be done, if anything, to address those challenges?
There is plenty of evidence showing the value of public cloud and its allure for the average enterprise. For most CIOs and IT leaders, they understand that there is potential with public cloud. That is not the fundamental problem. The issue is in how you get from here to there. Or, in IT parlance, how you migrate from current state to future state. For many CIOs, cloud plays a critical role in their digital transformation journey.
The steps in which you take as a CIO are not as trivial as many make it out to be. The level of complexity and process is palpable and must be respected. Simply put, it is not a mindset, but rather reality. This is the very context missing from many conversations about how enterprises, and their CIO, should leverage public cloud. Understanding and addressing the challenges provides for greater resolution to a successful path.
THE LIST OF CHALLENGES
Looking across a large cross-section of enterprises, several patterns start to appear. It seems that there are six core reasons why enterprises struggle to successfully adopt and leverage public cloud.
- FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt still ranks high among the list of issues with public cloud…and cloud in general. For the enterprise, there is value, but also risk with public cloud. Industry-wide, there is plenty of noise and fluff that further confuses the issues and opportunities.
- % of Shovel Ready Apps: In the average enterprise, only 10-20% of an IT organization’s budget (and effort) is put toward new development. There are many reasons for this. However, it further limits the initial opportunity for public cloud experimentation.
- Cost: There is plenty of talk about how public cloud is less costly than traditional corporate data center infrastructure. However, the truth is that public cloud is 4x the cost of running the same application within the corporate data center. Yes, 4x…and that considers a fully-loaded corporate data center cost. Even so, the reasons in this list contribute to the 4x factor and therefore can be mitigated.
- Automation & Orchestration: Corporate enterprise applications were never designed to accommodate automation and orchestration. In many cases, the effort to change an application may range from requiring significant changes to a wholesale re-write of the application.
- Architectural Differences: In addition to a lack of automation & orchestration support, corporate enterprise applications are architected where redundancy lies in the infrastructure tiers, not the application. The application assumes that the infrastructure is available 24×7 regardless if it is needed for 24 hours or 5 minutes. This model flies in the face of how public cloud works.
- Cultural impact: Culturally, many corporate IT folks work under an assumption that the application (and infrastructure it runs on) is just down the hall in the corporate data center. For infrastructure teams, they are accustomed to managing the corporate data center and infrastructure that supports the corporate enterprise applications. Moving to a public cloud infrastructure requires changes in how the CIO leads and how IT teams operate.
- Competing Priorities: Even if there is good reason and ROI to move an application or service to public cloud, it still must run the gauntlet of competing priorities. Many times, those priorities are set by others outside of the CIOs organization. Remember that there is only a finite amount of budget and resources to go around.
- Directives: Probably one of the scariest things I have heard is board of directors dictating that a CIO must move to cloud. Think about this for a minute. You have an executive board dictating technology direction. Even if it is the right direction to take, it highlights other issues in the executive leadership ranks.
Overall, one can see how each of these eight items are intertwined with each other. Start to work on one issue and it may address another issue.
UNDERSTANDING THE RAMIFICATIONS
The bottom line is that, as CIO, even if I agree that public cloud provides significant value, there are many challenges that must be addressed. Aside from FUD and the few IT leaders that still think cloud is a fad that will pass, most CIOs I know support leveraging cloud. Again, that is not the issue. The issue is how to connect the dots to get from current state to future state.
However, not addressing the issues up front from a proactive perspective can lead to several outcomes. These outcomes are already visible in the industry today and further hinder enterprise public cloud adoption.
- Public Cloud Yo-Yo: Enterprises move an application to public cloud only to run into issues and then pull it back out to a corporate data center. Most often, this is due to the very issues outlined above.
- Public Cloud Stigma: Due to the yo-yo effect, it creates a chilling effect where corporate enterprise organizations slow or stop public cloud adoption. The reasons range from hesitation to flat out lack of understanding.
Neither of these two issues are good for enterprise public cloud adoption. Regardless, the damage is done and considering the other issues, pushes public cloud adoption further down the priority list. Yet, both are addressable with a bit of forethought and planning.
GETTING ENTERPRISES STARTED WITH PUBLIC CLOUD
One must understand that the devil is in the details here. While this short list of things ‘to-do’ may seem straight forward, how they are done and addressed is where the key is.
- Experiment: Experiment, experiment, experiment. The corporate IT organization needs a culture of experimentation. Experiments are mean to fail…and learned from. Too many times, the expectation is that experiments will succeed and when they don’t, the effort is abandoned.
- Understand: Take some time to fully understand public cloud and how it works. Bottom line: Public cloud does not work like corporate data center infrastructure. It is often best to try and forget what you know about your internal environment to avoid preconceived assumptions.
- Plan: Create a plan to experiment, test, observe, learn and feed that back into the process to improve. This statement goes beyond just technology. Consider the organizational, process and cultural impacts.
WRAPPING IT UP
There is a strong pull for CIOs to get out of the data center business and reduce their corporate data center footprint. Public cloud presents a significant opportunity for corporate enterprise organizations. But before jumping into the deep end, take some time to understand the issues and plan accordingly. The difference will impact the success of the organization, speed of adoption and opportunities to the larger business.