As I travel around talking to organizations and the decision makers within them about Cloud Computing, I find myself enumerating a list of benefits that many of us believe come with Cloud Computing. The list includes scalability, economic benefits, the ability to focus on core business, etc.

I must have watched hundreds of presentations over the last few years focused on the benefits Cloud brings to an organization and they all have the same bullet-pointed list. It’s like rote learned mantra washing over attendees.

It’s started to strike me however that this ling list doesn’t do much to answer the questions of those looking to make a move to the Cloud. For them there is one simple question; “How the hell do I start?” With so many vendors selling so many products it’s difficult to know. The options are numerous;

•  Do we go simple and just use some Cloud infrastructure for some test/dev projects?
•  We’ve got some hardware due to be end-of-lifed, do we replace it with the Cloud?
• We have a bunch of email accounts service on-premise; do we make a move to Google apps perhaps?
• Our systems are tied together by a lot of sticking plasters; do we look for a Cloud suite to simplify our systems?

It’s made all the more difficult by dual traits that seem to be occurring in our industry. On the one hand are traditional vendors who spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to increase the concerns organizations have about moving to the Clouds. They decry Cloud as risky, minimize the benefits and call it immature. On the other hand are the zealots who would tell you that an immediate and total move to the Clouds risks organizations being left behind and putting their very existence at risk.

The reality is (of course) different than what either of these parties would lead you to believe. Yes Cloud is an important industry trend and will grow in terms of adoption over the next few years to become, within only a few years, the default way of delivering technology. But there will still be workloads delivered from traditional infrastructure sitting within an organization’s premises.

That’s not to say there aren’t particular things that organizations need to think about. There are indeed a plethora of both technical and business considerations that need to be taken into account; we detailed many of these in a previous CloudU report. But what we need, beyond a checklist of things to look at, is some clarity around what different organizations consider to be the drivers, barriers and key decision points involved in a move to the Cloud.

I’m interested to hear the process that business and technology folks within organizations go through in determining where there workloads reside, and your thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

We’re covering these areas of Cloud Computing on an ongoing basis at CloudU, an educational series aimed at increasing the knowledge and skill that SMBs have about the Cloud.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • Ben,
    Thanks for your insights. Many of them resonate with what I hear every day. I work in the Professional Services group at RightScale, and in that role I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of customers that are bringing new and existing applications to the cloud. You have captured the most common use cases in your article (test/dev projects, end-of-life hardware, etc.), however, another very common theme we hear are CTOs that have indicated that they don’t intend to buy any more physical hardware and/or build out any more datacenters for future projects, so all new applications need to be “cloud friendly”. In talking to these customers, the common conclusion is that the cloud is right for every organization, but not necessarily for every application. Some legacy applications that are dependent on specific high-performance hardware, or have extremely low-latency demands are oftentimes best left running on the customer’s on-premise infrastructure, but the vast majority of applications (especially new applications) lend them nicely to deployment in the cloud. As far as predictions for the future go, many of your ideas line up nicely with ours as well, some of which are captured here: http://www.rightscale.com/news_events/press_releases/2011/rightscale-year-in-review.php

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