In an online forum over the last few days, a group of IT executives has debated the "real value" of cloud services. Here is the note that prompted the chat:
Will cloud computing deliver us genuine business benefits or is it a clever technology looking for a home? In the long term could it negatively impact our business?
Several forum participants weighed in, agreeing that they'd read and heard all the "hype" from cloud providers, only to be left still pondering the actual value to their businesses of adopting clouds. In some cases, it was clear that upper management and boards would view a move to cloud simply as an infrastructure upgrade -- and an insecure one at that.
Unless it could be proved to add value to the business bottom line, a move to cloud could even be detrimental. One IT manager wrote: "There are some businesses which will not be able to use cloud very successfully and I really think that trying to hammer some infrastructures into a cloud-shaped hole will be the end of some IT practitioners' careers when it all falls apart."
All of this forces acknowledgment that not every business is meant to be a use case for Google (or SAP or Salesforce.com or any other cloud vendor). There are some general instances for which cloud services may be contraindicated. You may want to hold off on purchasing cloud services if your organization has one or more of the following:
Apps requiring clustered servers. As noted in a company blog from the Armada Group consultancy:
Those [applications] relying on clustered servers, for example, aren't good fits for cloud environments where they share resources with other customers. Because a clustered server group requires identical configuration of each server and large dedicated bandwidth among servers, a cloud vendor may not be able to guarantee that specialized configuration as they manage the server loads.
Rigid data compliance requirements. Recent history attests that sometimes cloud services are at odds with government requirements for data security and compliance. A requirement that servers be housed domestically and supervised by hand-picked personnel apparently scotched a cloud deal between Google and the City of Los Angeles. If you have rigid data security requirements, cloud services may not be for you.
An inflexible org chart. For many organizations, adopting cloud services means redefining what IT does. As consultant and Internet Evolution contributor Mary E. Shacklett has noted, once cloud services are in place, IT personnel may no longer be required to solve basic IT problems, but instead may need to take charge of outsourced solutions in a higher-level way: "As an IT manager, you can no longer isolate staff by assigning them to specific resources or applications. Instead, you must develop an organizational strategy that aligns staff behind a particular line of business or business service." Organizations that aren't ready to make these changes probably won't make good cloud adopters.
High-bandwidth applications. In some instances, it may be necessary to allocate extra bandwidth to ensure that a cloud-based application performs as well as needed. Oklahoma City Public Schools, for instance, bought a dedicated circuit to ensure that its financial system, hosted in the cloud, would feature good response time. Unless the operator offers plenty of bandwidth, performance will be a consideration.
Deep security and reliability concerns. While it's clear that most cloud providers can meet or exceed the security requirements of nearly all enterprises, cloud contracts don't cover everything. Further, cloud services are still perceived as insecure by many non-technical upper-level managers, so anything that may go wrong as a result of not covering all the fine print with your service provider is likely to appear to be IT's fault. Unless you can establish clear guidelines for all security and reliability eventualities, it may be better to hold off until you're entirely sure you can do so.
In summary, clouds are not uniformly guaranteed to succeed in every organization. As one participant on the forum cited earlier wrote: "If you currently have a good and reliable network, security and data storage that is providing your organization with reliability etc., [then] wait. The cloud will not go away and when it is time to upgrade the infrastructure then include it in your evaluation."
Ha! Even "websites that contain musings from people who think they are worthy of giving opinions" have personally identifiable info, backend stuff, etc., at risk of breach. After all, what those sites post publicly is what they want the world to see. Back in their servers, that's another matter.
Yeah, I've tried to think of an industry, from a security perspective, that wouldn't have this risk.
There are plenty, I guess, but to be thinking of the cloud, there has to be enough scale that the quest is for a (fairly) large organization that doesn't worry about security, or at least, the ramifications if the data was "out there."
I can't think of one. Anything with employee or customer data would be out. I thought about the transfer of video between studios, but breach of the data would be fatal.
I'm sure there is something (I guess, obviously, websites that contain musings from people who think they are worthy of giving opinions could be one :-) ). But, the security aspect sure rules out several.
Thank you Mary, for posting this information. I have long held similar suspecions about cloud computing from the very beginning, especially where security concerns are considered as paramount. Does cloud outsourcing of a corporation's digital data meet the requirements of "Due Dilligence"? With these doubts in place, my answer is a resounding 'NO'
Yes, and also it shouldn't necessarily be a "chore".
Your own personal cloud -- like your external web services interfaces -- could be the value added of your own business. Suddenly it's you selling your Cloud to the other businesses. Organizations should not be so eager to give up their precious information resources to external platforms, when they may be able to gather together systems and software, do some rework and present just as good (or better and more innovative) cloud designs to their customers!
Getting the right blend, plus integrating cloud services within existing IT, calls for a lot of expertise, I think. In some instances, the expertise will come from the provider, but IT must be able to at least ask the right questions in order to set things up effectively.
Just like not every product out there is suitable of all needs within the IT sphere, it would be unfair to expect the cloud to be suitable for all needs. In IT, just like in many other spheres the concept of "context" or "localization" where customization could necessary - lot we need to let this reality advice our view of the CLOUD.
Deep down, I feel the concept of the CLOUD is not yet properly understood and that is the reason for the many varied ideas on it out there.
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