A great deal has changed in the cloud industry since 2000 when Peak 10 opened its first data center. We’ve pretty much seen it all and dealt with it all. But that was then, and this is now.
The cloud is no longer just an interesting way to reduce IT costs. Today, it is about transforming businesses, gaining extreme competitive advantage, interacting directly with customers in real time, and dozens of other game-changing possibilities. Unless you’re beginning with a clean slate as a new company or already are a devoted outsourcer, you’re likely to have a number of issues to resolve as you work through how cloud computing figures into your future.
Challenges to cloud adoption come in all shapes, sizes and severities, depending on the organization. None should be considered show-stoppers, but that doesn’t make them any less real or significant. There is no definitive list of challenges; if there was it would be outdated as soon as it was put to paper. However, in speaking with prospective customers, attending tradeshows and working with clients on their future cloud roadmaps, there are recurring themes. The following are the concerns and challenges we hear most often.
Making the correct choice: SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and a plethora of options and variations within. It seems that most anything today is a-a-S (available as a service). Sorting through it all is daunting. It’s easier to narrow down when you know the business requirements you need to meet. Every cloud strategy begins with the business strategy and a determination of the risk/reward of various choices. Business case first, cloud implementation last.
Lack of Executive Support: This is a difficult challenge with many fathers. In one way or another, a lack of support generally comes down to fear, uncertainty and doubt. Winning favor begins with speaking the language of business, understanding business issues and goals and, as above, building a sound business case for your proposals. Align proposal with major corporate campaigns.
Loss of Control: It’s tough letting go. This is not always a matter of security either. Entrusting a third party to be a responsible, honest and reliable business partner (and one for which you are being held accountable) is a cause of frequent agita for some. Think of the other revenue-generating projects and business contributions IT can accomplish when chunk of operational responsibility is lifted from your shoulders.
Vendor Lock-in: Even if you’re already using the cloud you still would like to have control over your data and be able to switch service providers freely. Ensuring data portability is essential, as is understanding the data ownership and retrieval policies of the provider.
Security and Compliance: The 800-pound gorilla. At the end of the day, there may be some data or applications that your organization will never feel comfortable letting out of sight. However, this is also an area of intense focus by some service providers because the demand is so great, and it’s a major point of competitive differentiation. Security and compliance is not a cloud computing issue per se; it’s more a cloud service provider issue. Some will excel at providing it, some will dabble in it, and others will not have it in their business model.
Availability and Reliability: The 799-pound gorilla. As with security, availability and reliability are a service provider issue. There is no question that delivering on a stringent SLA requires a commitment to best practices, a thoroughly redundant architecture, 24/7/365 staffing by trained and experience technicians, and top-flight hardware, software and network products. For example, Peak 10 guarantees 99.9 percent or greater uptime with 100 percent uptime for critical infrastructure, spelled out clearly in our service level agreements.
Lack of Skills, Knowledge and Expertise: It’s different in the cloud, and many IT organizations may not have the necessary tools or resources to implement, monitor and manage cloud solutions. It’s not what they are geared to do. Educating staff about new processes and tool sets, or hiring staff with new skills, may be necessary … increasingly so as more of your operations and applications move to the cloud over time. Selecting the right service provider will definitely help ease the transition and fill gaps.
Performance and Bandwidth Cost: Businesses can save money on system acquisitions, management and maintenance, but they may have to spend more for the bandwidth. For smaller applications this is not usually an issue, but cost can be high for the data-intensive applications. Delivering and receiving intensive and complex data over the network requires sufficient bandwidth to stave off latency and application time outs.
Vendor Transparency: “Trust me” is not what you want to hear from your service provider. If that’s what you get, respond with “show me.” Short of divulging trade secrets or competitively sensitive operational information, a service provider should be open about it processes and methods for delivering on its SLAs. This is especially true when it comes to security and compliance.
Integration with Existing Infrastructure: This is a difficult yet essential piece of maximizing the value of cloud services. Frankly, it must be addressed. For many IT departments this challenge already exists within their organizations in the form of shadow IT and BYOD. Further, the incremental gains that result from Introducing discreet cloud services into an organization will never achieve what a well-integrated environment can deliver. Developing a cohesive strategy is paramount, an effort that will be aided greatly by a governance strategy, first at the corporate level and then within IT.