Two Keys to Successful Cloud Computing

Like a growing number of enterprises today, Kelly Services has made the cloud a key part of its corporate IT strategy. Based in Troy, Mich., the workforce services provider began its foray into cloud computing in 2004, when it adopted as its CRM platform.

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Four years later, the company launched Kelly IT 2.0, a program to help transform the company into a global business. Among the benefits the cloud provides to this program, according to Joe Drouin, senior vice president and CIO, is dramatically easier and more cost-effective deployment of applications to Kelly’s employees and customers around the world

What delivers this ease and economy is cloud computing’s essential characteristic: the disconnection of an application from the infrastructure that supports it. This has had transformative implications for how businesses work today.

However, it has also created a fair measure of chaos and confusion, including misunderstandings about what defines cloud computing. Meanwhile, managers and workers are making new demands—based on the cloud concept—for applications and capabilities, pursuing the opportunities they present for entering new markets, gaining share in current ones or increasing margins

To make sense of the cloud computing landscape, Baseline fielded an online survey in April 2011. The results point to two critical elements of a cloud strategy that are not commonly recognized: attention to service levels and focus on integration. To ensure your path to cloud success, you must incorporate both elements

First, though, our survey demonstrated the chief selling points of cloud computing: flexibility and versatility. Through this simple model of disconnecting the application from the infrastructure, cloud computing lets your organization add capabilities, scale initiatives or wind down unfruitful programs more easily than ever—in both public and private clouds.

Lionsgate Entertainment, a global entertainment company in Santa Monica, Calif., must be able to scale capacity, varying the amount of computing power based on specific project needs. So, in November 2010, it began moving its SAP ERP system into a cloud computing environment hosted by Amazon Web Services, with help from integration firm Freedom OSS. “It’s a lot more practical to make use of a cloud resource like Amazon than to build your own,” says Leo Collins, executive vice president and CIO

These benefits are not effortless to attain, however. Our survey revealed the challenges that organizations are experiencing with their cloud deployments. Chief among them is concern about data protection, which comes naturally with the multitenancy implied by the cloud computing model. But it’s interesting that, although multitenancy is mostly associated with public clouds, data protection is seen as just as great a challenge with private clouds

This leads to the first clear weak point in the cloud: service levels. Despite cloud computing’s bright future, survey respondents hold very low opinions of the service-level agreements they are getting from vendors. That’s why we believe that the first essential-but-unknown success factor in cloud implementations is a strong focus on SLAs: You can and should expect as much from a cloud vendor as from a non-cloud one.

Organizations are also hesitating because of the investments they have made in their current hardware. This was a reason given for avoiding the cloud by 35 percent of the 834 business and IT executives from 21 countries surveyed by the IT Governance Institute (ITGI), a Rolling Meadows, Ill., research entity, in its 2011 “Global Status Report on the Governance of Enterprise IT.”

“Cloud computing can deliver tremendous benefits,” says Ken Vander Wal, international vice president of ISACA, which owns ITGI, “but when companies think about moving a known quantity to a whole new computing model, they have reasonable concerns about integration, disruption to the business, and security and privacy issues.”