The Problem with the Cloud Cure-All

Scott Kinka, CTO, Evolve IP
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Scott Kinka, CTO, Evolve IP

Scott Kinka, CTO, Evolve IP

So I sit here on a beautiful late summer morning to pen a cool ‘techie’ article for CIO Review Magazine and find myself having my Jerry McGuire moment. Ready?

"The cloud is growing up. It’s morphing to address the larger IT audience and ultimately, the wave will not stop"   

The cloud can’t fix your problems. 

Prepare your hate tweets now. 

Sure the cloud promise can be fulfilled. This would not be an emerging several billion-dollar industry if it didn’t meet some (most) of its promise. We’ve all heard the same commercial:    

• Better Total cost of ownership than on premise equipment (power, space, cooling, administration, etc.). 
• Better availability (locally highly available) and Disaster Recovery (generally geographically redundant). 
• Evergreen delivery of new features/applications.  
• Limitless scalability. 

Generally the same commercial works regardless of what “AAS” we’re talking about here:   SaaS, IaaS, UCaaS, DaaS, DRaaS, ITaaS. Yes, I’m generalizing—and oversimplifying. 

The problem is that too many businesses believe that their “broken” stuff will just work better when it’s moved to someone’s cloud. Too many businesses believe that the cloud can bridge knowledge gaps, or that it can fix broken processes, or appease unhappy end users, or get the CFO off of the IT Director’s back. 

You see, the server jockeys, developers, sales admins, who saw a better way and worked with these technologies had so much early success that everyone wants in on the party. But what we have failed to see (remember) is that the early adopters of yester-cloud had their stuff pretty well in hand before they bought their first “AAS”.   Their apps performed reasonably well. They monitored and cared for their local infrastructure. They had well thought out (but costly) DR plans. They considered another option to be able to do these things better. And they put the time into figuring out how to leverage whatever cloud service they were considering to simply do it better. 

Here’s the Headline:  a poorly performing app won’t magically work better in the cloud.  A poorly managed user base will not magically be happy in the cloud.  

Something Else to Consider:  Most cloud service providers are not in the business of making your stuff work better or your end users more happy. They are in the business of selling you something—perhaps a server—in the cloud. It really doesn’t matter if you EVER put a production app on it.     

The misconception that the cloud can “cure all” is the industry’s fault. And its led toa crisis of confidence among stretched IT directors who are hoping for a “cure all.” Consider that in a recent Evolve IP survey about cloud utilization, executives (C-level, VP and Directors) (looking for the high level benefits of the cloud mentioned earlier) are significantly more likely (over 70 percent) to move to the cloud than the IT managers who work for them (58.5 percent). 

Thankfully, I believe that the industry is morphing to react to the deluge of interest from customers who may or not be ready to move to the cloud, but have good reasons for interest in it.   

• The “boutique” cloud provider comes of age.  No provider is going to compete with Amazon’s disk pricing, or with Microsoft selling their own software in the cloud or VMware’s offering cloud on their own software.  But customers ARE realizing that they must really be prepared to “do it yourself” to make successful use of those clouds. If you need help with your “stuff”, not just a place to put it, there are other options that may cost more, but engage in migration, production testing, cleanup and consulting. And when it comes to “total” cost of ownership (fully loaded including people-time) these options may offer a better outcome—regardless of the cost of disk. 

• Managed Services are BACK in a big way. Very successful Cloud providers have publicly retracted pure Infrastructure products in favor of bundles that INCLUDE managed services. These include monitoring, application management, patching, end user help desk and more. In other words, the industry has started to wake up to the fact that there is a huge opportunity with customers who are potentially not ready to “do it themselves”. 

• The partner community is embracing distribution of these products and are willing and able to fill the gaps. VARs, Integrators, and Network and Telecom consultants have found ways to make money selling these services and are wrapping services around them to fill the gaps in the customer’s willingness, ability or time to make effective use of the cloud (or to migrate to it). AND these relationships often pre-date the customer’s interest in the cloud, which means that IT departments don’t have to start over with a new vendor. 

This is all good news for any IT department or executive looking to move services to the cloud.   The key to success is twofold—and it’s simple: 

• Understand what you need—Be honest about your capabilities, time, and the current state of whatever you are trying to move to the cloud. While a move to the cloud is a perfect opportunity to “clean things up”—someone has to do that work. Will that be your staff or your service provider or your consultant? This brings me to the second point…

• Understand what your responsibilities are when using any cloud service.   In general, big public cloud service providers deliver infrastructure or software and don’t engage in your use of it. Many little service providers are in the business of saying “YES” to everything in the sales process to compete. Unless migration, end-user or app support, and monitoring are provided as actual services that you are charged for—you aren’t getting them—no matter what the sales person says. 

The cloud is growing up. It’s morphing to address the larger IT audience and ultimately, the wave will not stop. If you’re considering a move to the cloud, be honest with yourself about what you have and what you’re willing to do, understand what your provider is contracted (not just willing) to do, and expect some work. Getting to the cloud is not magic. But the results can be.

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