One of the subtle yet significant trends that I think we’ll see in 2011 will be a more orderly adoption of cloud computing solutions in the new year.
In fact, I think it will become imperative for corporate decision-makers to gain greater control over the way their organizations acquire and utilize cloud services in order to ensure their success in the coming year.
In 2010, cloud computing far exceeded a “tipping point” and became a predominant topic of discussion, as well as a testing ground of new IT and business initiatives. The explosion of cloud alternatives was met with a widespread market of willing buyers hungry to take advantage of these new on-demand resources to address their immediate needs.
While the early adopters were successful for the most part in their efforts to leverage cloud services to meet those needs, many of their initial deployments were focused on “situational” computing requirements, such as test/dev or to accommodate spikes in computing cycles, with limited long-term risk involved.
Now that the fundamental capabilities and financial benefits of cloud computing alternatives have proven themselves, I expect corporate decision-makers to dedicate 2011 to looking at ways they can employ cloud services to meet their broader ongoing production-level needs with greater strategic significance.
Yet, many of the past cloud projects were actually initiated unilaterally by business units and end-users without corporate authorization or even IT awareness. Instead, cloud computing has cemented the consumerization of IT and exponentially enlarged (even darkened) “shadow IT.”
Enabling business units and end-users to take advantage of the self-provisioning capabilities offered by leading cloud computing service providers has plenty of benefits. It can offload a considerable amount of the day-to-day burdens on IT and permit IT people to focus on more important work. It can also permit corporate employees to more quickly address their business challenges.
However, properly managing the acquisition and utilization of these third-party resources is critical for financial and compliance reasons. Uncontrolled use of cloud services may actually cost more than using better-planned resources. Many compare the availability of credit-card-enabled cloud services as financially dangerous as giving a teenager carte blanche to use a cellphone without the right payment plan in place. In both cases, user costs can add up fast. And cloud services also enable users to store and distribute data outside the firewall in a less controlled manner, which can lead to security issues.
In order to mitigate these risks while finding ways to further leverage the benefits of the cloud, I think corporate decision-makers will shift their attention beyond questions about cloud reliability, security, and integration to governance and control.
They will look for mechanisms that permit centralized procurement and administration of multiple cloud services. These “portals” will enable them to better coordinate, evaluate, authorize, and manage cloud service acquisition. They will include single sign-on capabilities and activity logs that monitor usage and data flow.
Application performance management and service level verification tools will also become more prevalent to ensure and optimize the value of cloud services. IT service management platforms will also expand to provide a unified view of the on-premises and online resources being utilized within organizations.
For those organizations that are unable or unwilling to assume the additional responsibilities of greater control over their cloud computing use, a new generation of managed cloud services is emerging, which will provide third-party management of cloud resources.
Corporate executives should dedicate time as soon as possible to establishing internal governance policies and procedures to guide how they employ cloud solutions. These policies and procedures should define how they utilize the new generation of cloud governance tools and services.
There will be even more reason for organizations of all sizes to take advantage of cloud services in the coming year. But they will need to put more time into properly managing these resources.
— Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies and founder of the SaaS Showplace. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.