There are two sides to the cloud coin: one positive, the other negative, and too many people focus on one at the expense of the other for a variety of reasons ranging from ignorance to wilful misdirection. But ultimately, success resides in embracing both sides and pulling together the capabilities of both enterprises and their suppliers to make the most of the positive and limit the negative.
Cloud services can either alleviate or compound the business challenges identified by Ovum’s annual ICT Enterprise Insights program, based on interviews with 6,500 senior IT executives. On the positive side both public and private clouds, and everything in between, help:
• Boost ROI at various levels: From squeezing more utilization from the underlying infrastructure to making it easier to launch new projects with the extra resources exposed asa result.
• Deal with the trauma of major organisational/ structural changes as they can adapt to the ups and downs of requirements evolution.
• Improve customer/citizen experience, and therefore satisfaction: This has been one of the top drivers for cloud adoption. Cloud computing is at its heart user experience-centric. Unfortunately many forget this, preferring instead to approach cloud computing from a technical perspective.
• Deal with security, security compliance, and regulatory compliance: An increasing number of companies acknowledge that public cloud security and compliance credentials are at least as good if not better than their own, particularly in a world where security and compliance challenges are evolving so rapidly. Similarly, private clouds require security to shift from reactive and static to proactive and dynamic security, whereby workloads and data need to be secured as they move in and out of internal IT’s boundaries.
On the other hand, cloud services have the potential to compound business challenges. For instance, the rise of public cloud adoption contributes to challenges related to increasing levels of outsourcing. It is all about relationship management, and therefore relates to another business challenge: improving supplier relationships.
In addition to having to adapt to new public cloud offerings (rather than the other way round), once the right contract is signed (another challenging task), enterprises need to proactively manage not only their use of the service but also their relationships with the service provider, if only to be able to keep up with their fast-evolving offerings.
Similarly, cloud computing adds to the age-old challenge of aligning business and IT at two levels: cloud-enabling IT, and cloud-centric business transformation.
From a cloud-enabling IT perspective, the challenge is to understand, manage, and bridge a variety of internal divides and convergences, including consumer versus enterprise IT, developers versus IT operations, and virtualisation ops people versus network and storage ops. As the pace of software delivery accelerates, developers and administrators need to not only to learn from and collaborate with one another, but also deliver the right user experience – not just the right business outcomes. Virtualisation ops people tend to be much more in favour than network and storage ops people of software-defined datacentre, storage, and networking (SDDC, SDS, SDN) with a view to increasingly take control of datacentre and network resources. But the storage and network ops people, however, are not so keen on letting the virtualisation people in.
When it comes to cloud-centric business transformation, IT is increasingly defined in terms of business outcomes within the context of its evolution from application siloes to standardised, shared, and metered IT resources, from a push to a pull provisioning model, and more importantly, from a cost centre to an innovation engine.
The challenge, then, is to understand, manage, and bridge a variety of internal divides and convergences including:
• Outside-in (public clouds for green-field application development) versus inside-out (private cloud for legacy applicationmodernization) perspectives. Supporters of the two approaches can be found on both the business and IT sides of the enterprise.
• Line-of-business executives (CFO, CMO, CSO) versus CIOs regarding cloud-related roles, budgets, and strategies: The up-andcoming role of chief digital officer (CDO) exemplifies the convergence between technology and business C-level executives. All CxOs can potentially fulfil this role, with CDOs increasingly regarded as “CEOs in waiting”. In this context, there is a tendency to describe the role as the object of a war between CIOs and other CxOs. But what digital enterprises need is not CxOs battling each other, but coordinating their IT investments and strategies. Easier said than done since, beyond the usual political struggles, there is a disparity between all side in terms of knowledge, priorities, and concerns.
• Top executives versus middle management: Top executives who are broadly in favour of cloud computing in all its guises, versus middle management who are much less eager to take it on board, but need to be won over since they are critical to cloud strategy execution.
• Shadow IT versus Official IT: Where IT acknowledges the benefits of Shadow IT (it makes an organisation more responsive and capable of delivering products and services that IT cannot currently support) and its shortcomings (in terms of costs, security, and lack of coordination, for example). However, too much focus on control at the expense of user experience and empowerment perpetuates shadow IT.
Only then will your organisation manage to balance both sides of the cloud coin.
Laurent Lachal is leading Ovum Software Group’s cloud computing research. Besides Ovum, where he has spent most of his 20 year career as an analyst, Laurent has also been European software market group manager at Gartner Ltd.