The No.1 initiative in many of the large corporate IT departments nowadays is about moving to the cloud platform. Bank of America, SAP and many other large companies in non-tech industries are trying it. The decision of getting on either Public, Private or Hybrid Cloud largely depends on the nature of the business, the security concerns and the decision drivers of the company management. Today because the cost of building a cloud-ready modern data center can be much cheaper than in the past, due to both the best practices from Google, Facebook, etc. and downward hardware cost, many security-sensitive companies may decide to build Private Cloud only and completely on their own, although they may have to work with certain technology vendors here and there. TriStrategist thinks that such a decision has several obvious drawbacks.
1. Lack of central vision, planning and design for an extensible platform for potential future needs in cloud.
In a huge enterprise that has been running on traditional IT models for decades, new ideas are often tested on a small scale and initiated by a few departments first. Same are true for testing out the cloud, with only limited design, planning and views of the company. For example, some may start by moving applications on virtual machines; some may interpret cloud services as moving to fee-for-service models between departments, etc. Few people, including management, fully understand cloud computing concepts and technologies in the market. However modern cloud service platform is a gigantic disruptive wave that can disrupt the entire IT operations, resource utilizations and existing internal business models. It’s hard to implement a comprehensive and cohesive cloud platform and service model without considering the IT for the enterprise and the future needs of the company as a whole. Piecemeal implementations could most likely be short-sighted, costly, incompatible or redundant with each other.
2. Lack of right resources and skillset for an efficient implementation.
Cloud and related technologies, such as Big Data, etc., are mostly new. Many companies simply don’t have the right resources with the skills needed. A cloud platform for a large company usually has to embrace many mixed technologies, from hosting infrastructure and virtualization to automation and self-service, etc. It’s often difficult to find people who understand the linkages between different technologies for a smart design. Hiring outside consultants may not help much either since many of these consultants from a particular technology vendor tend to only know about their own product than understand the enterprise’s complex needs and multi-technology environment. Cloud computing also demands new skills. For example, automation development skills are usually hard to be filled by traditional DBAs or IT support staff.
3. Lack of versatility in modern technology infusions.
Cloud technologies are fast evolving. New technologies, new concepts and new tools mushroom every day. Therefore an enterprise cloud platform needs to be open so that it can leave room for future better technologies to fit in. Initial implementation only by internal people tends to follow the least-resistance path which could result in a lack of extensibility and versatility when future needs demand them.
What would be a better approach? TriStrategist thinks that companies inexperienced with cloud, especially those outside technology industry, should try a more open-minded approach in building the cloud at the beginning. Under a comprehensive company-wide vision, business segments with less security constraints should consider first using established Public Cloud providers. The goals are twofold: a fast and cost-effective implementation; collecting experience and training its own staff at the same time. This may be a smarter shortcut to get a extensible Hybrid Cloud for a company’s future needs than taking the painstaking novice effort to build-your-own internal cloud which could surely encounter unexpected problems. A company’s long-term visions should also bear the open-mindedness for its own sake.