Thursday, June 16, 2011

Episode 7: Hello cloud, I'm a business - who are you?

Over sixty percent of Irish businesses cited the cost savings as an imperative for cloud adoption in Ireland according to a very recent survey commissioned for Cloud Arena by Seefin Data Management. Now while that may be pretty much par for the course & pretty much part of the standard message of Cloud Computing, others findings from this survey for most Irish cloud companies are of greater concern.

"The biggest challenge is that we need to learn more about Cloud & how it works"

"Inertia & a fear we need to be technically expert"

"Limited knowledge of cloud systems"

These were some of the comments that came back as part of the survey, accompanied by the statistic that over 20% of respondents said that overall understanding of the Cloud within their companies was low & they felt there was a need to educate their staff about the effectiveness of the Cloud. Cloud right now is THE buzzword in I.T., & Irish companies appear to be grasping it quite well when it comes to calling their products 'Cloud', but many of them seem to be very poor at actually using it to present better levels of infrastructural & I.S. cost economics to their business.

The comments about education are in some-ways almost a catch-22. For alot of these companies, if you were to suggest to them that to better educate their staff on the benefits/effectiveness that some form of training needed to be invested in, red flags would appear & a look of panic would befall the CFO in the business. There is also the flip side that in some of these companies that they continue to used aged technology because 'it's what they know', & no matter how great a new piece of tech might be for the business, there may be that I.T. manager who will find a way to shoot it down because it means he/she has to re-train, re-learn new things.

There is a perception that people who work in I.T. always want to learn the newest technologies, always keen to be dynamic, motivated to get to 'play' with new things. This is not always the case. People who work at the cutting edge will always remain there. People who work with older technology, from my own experience have generally tended to stay there, age with the tech they oversee & go through the motions to pick up the paycheck.

Another issue with the cloud is the absolute muddy-ness of the term itself. For companies who are trying to understand how they can harness the cost savings Cloud purports, tell them there's IAAS, PAAS & SAAS & their heads auto-explode instantly. This also is in line with the comments from the Cloud Arena survey of "Inertia & a fear we need to be technically expert".

The muddy-ness doesn;t end there. There's companies who are engaging in re branding services as 'Cloud' for a cash-in, who won't be challenged on it by their industry peers. The entire idea of Cloud following the spectacular collapse of the global economy has helped increase the buy & sell opportunities for cloud off the back of 'cloud saves you money' will not be placed in jeopardy by any kind of internal squabbles in the industry over whose products/services are/are not Cloud, or the industry self-examining. There are some minor indications of this where you'll often see some IAAS providers use statements like 'we are true cloud', but won't then follow-up by saying what is 'not cloud'.

How is any of this supposed to help get those who want to actually help their businesses engage in some obvious wins for their business in terms of costs, redundancy gains, & provider diversity to secure their business futures? It doesn't. All it does is prolong the sales cycles for cloud service providers, leave  the issues facing buyers completely unaddressed & ultimately see the industry around the Cloud self-sabotage the opportunities. If you want passengers on your ship, you need to give them clear reasons to come aboard & stay - the idea of 'saves you money' or 'a great deal' is not enough anymore. There has to be an absolutely crystal clear value proposition that is plain as day, as money & credit even more so, is hard to come by these days. Pennies are being watched like they are large denomination notes.

Clarity & transparency about the cloud in the way the bottom part of the cloud food chain needs it to be to give full end-to-end adaptation, & growth I fear will be procrastinated upon the same way migration to IPV6 has been done. I remember discussing about migration & implementation of IPV6 over 6 years ago with some acquaintances of mine who were senior network engineers, & in recent conversations with them, they said they still hadn't moved into IPV6 because there was an argument about cost & the benefits still going on despite the imminent day zero scenario approaching.

Right now, as much as Cloud is the meal ticket for the technology industry, & those who leverage off it heavily to in turn provide services/businesses using it, even the lack of interoperability between various cloud systems/services/products is something that the industry itself won't address because there is too much at stake. It is pretty much an unspoken state of 'hold-fire' that in the near future will come to a crunch-time the same way IPV4 has. All this does is continue to leave the Cloud as an aspiration that people who want it will never reach, much like the white fluffy counterparts in the sky.