There's No Escaping the Cloud
It seems that no matter where I go these days, everyone is talking about the cloud. Even my fellow commuters on the Long Island Rail Road have something to sayâ€”or something to askâ€”about this latest tech phenomenon. So I wasnâ€™t at all surprised when cloud computing popped up throughout the day at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, held in Boston in May. The CEO panelists at the keynote address, â€śOpportunities and Strategies in the Digital Business World,â€ť spoke about the cloud as a way to free up capital so companies could take advantage of new business opportunities.
One of the panelists, David Castellani, CEO of New York Life Retirement Plan Services, advised companies to figure out how much noncore infrastructure they can outsource. â€śHow much of it do you really need to exist internallyâ€ť he asked. â€śYou need capital to try new things, and you need to free up human resources as well.â€ť He said many businesses can â€śthrow out most proprietary apps that donâ€™t add business value.â€ť
In another session, panelists discussed cloud computing and mobility. Lior Netzer, vice president of mobile network strategy at Akamai, predicted that in a few years, mobility will exist in the cloud. As a result, the type of mobile devices individuals use wonâ€™t matter because all their data will be in the cloud, enabling them to continue working on one document or project with multiple devices. Netzer called it â€śseamless mobility.â€ť
Panelists at a session on cyber-security viewed a different aspect of cloud computing: the challenges of securing it.
This is obviously a major hurdle for many organizations, but itâ€™s not an insurmountable one, as there are many security solutions available todayâ€”and more are in the pipeline.
â€śWe all have some legacy systems that will be around for awhile,â€ť said David Saul, senior vice president at State Street, â€śbut we should eventually move to a cloud model thatâ€™s got security built in from the ground up.â€ť
Many networking conversations also revolved around the cloud. In one meeting, Shawn Banerji, a managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates, pointed out a key strategic advantage of the cloud: changing the business model.
â€śCIOs need to choose technologies that can help change the business model and achieve the business outcome,â€ť he said. â€śThey can participate in creating the future of their company by managing critical assets and providing actionable information to the business through a cloud model. CIOs need to be BIOs: business information officers.â€ť
You, Baselineâ€™s readers, also had a lot to say about cloud computing when you participated in our recent research study. You enthused about the cloudâ€™s versatility, speed and cost savings, while lamenting the security and control issues involved with multitenancy. (See â€śSpeeding to the Cloudâ€ť on page 18.)
One critical element of cloud strategy revealed by the survey involves service levels: â€śSurvey respondents hold very low opinions of the service-level agreements they are getting from vendors,â€ť wrote Guy Currier, our executive director of research. â€śThatâ€™s why we believe that the first essential-but-unknown success factor in cloud implementations is a strong focus on SLAs.â€ť
Another essential, and more positive, element, according to our respondents, is integration. â€śCloud computing schemes â€¦ are oriented from the ground up toward integration with existing architectures,â€ť Guy wrote. â€śSo you can splice together multiple cloud and non-cloud offerings to create your own custom suites.â€ť
Though many organizations are still holding backâ€”fearful of lost data or lost controlâ€”a growing number of enterprises are driving their business to the cloud. We interviewed several for our cover story: Kelly Services, Lionsgate Entertainment, HarperCollins Publishers, GWR Medical, Imperial Sugar, WhitePages, Suncorp and Dubset.
These and thousands of other organizations are taking advantage of one or more of the cloudâ€™s offerings: software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. Many are starting with a private cloud, then using a public cloud for functions that are not critical to the business.
Regardless of the type of cloud initiative youâ€™re consideringâ€”private, public or hybridâ€”the key to success is a well-thought-out strategy thatâ€™s based on your companyâ€™s business objectives.