Cloud computing is information technology (IT) offered as a service. It eliminates the need for organizations to build and maintain expensive data centers. It enables organizations to stand up new systems quickly and easily. It provides elastic resources that allow applications to scale as needed in response to market demands. Its pay-as-you-go rental model allows organizations to defer costs. It increases business continuity by providing inexpensive disaster-recovery options. It reduces the need for organizations to maintain a large IT staff.
IT is critically important: without it, most organizations can’t function effectively. And yet, except in a few special cases, IT typically doesn’t give its organization a competitive advantage—it isn’t a core capability.
Modern economics are driving organizations to externalize noncore capabilities. If the noncore capability available from an external provider is more cost effective, then it should be externalized. By this criterion, IT is a perfect candidate for externalization.
Prior to the introduction of cloud computing, organizations externalized IT by outsourcing to IT service providers. But IT service provider relationships have never been particularly elastic. Cloud computing offers many benefits over the traditional IT outsourcing model because of the on-demand nature of the cloud business model. Organizations engage cloud-computing service providers on an application-by-application basis. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.
Is it any wonder that cloud computing is at the center of the latest hype storm? Vendors are busy “cloud washing” their product suites and updating their marchitecture slide decks, hoping to capitalize on this opportunity. (It’s remarkable how rapidly a terrestrial product can morph into a cloud offering.)
But moving to the cloud turns out to be more challenging than it first appears. The cloud-computing business model is still in its nascent stages, and quite a few issues remain to be worked out. The Cloud at Your Service is dedicated not to adding to the hype, but rather to cutting through the complexity, to aiding the decision-makers and buyers, and to helping companies develop a strategy for identifying what to move to the cloud, what not to move to the cloud, and when and how to do it.
It’s easy to find one or two new noncritical applications with minimal dependencies to deploy in the cloud. But cloud adoption gets a lot trickier when you begin talking about shifting major applications to the cloud. Most cloud providers aren’t willing to offer robust service-level agreements (SLAs). Can you afford to be without an application for an hour? Four hours? A day? Some cloud providers are willing to negotiate for stronger SLAs—but then the price goes up, and the compelling business case suddenly becomes much more questionable. And what happens if your chosen cloud provider goes out of business or fails to meet your requirements? How easily could you change providers or bring the application back on-premises?
What guarantees do the cloud providers give to ensure compliance with changing laws and regulations? And what about sensitive information? How damaging would it be if sensitive data leaked out? Most business applications have extensive dependencies on other applications and databases. How do you enable interoperability between cloud-based applications and the applications that remain on-premises?
These are the issues large enterprises have. It’s precisely to help those enterprises that Rosenberg and Mateos wrote this book. Vendor hype, questionable business cases, and indeterminate risks increase consumer apprehension and hinder cloud adoption. But despite these issues, cloud computing is incredibly compelling. IT organizations need to understand the risks and benefits to gain the most value from cloud computing. The Cloud at Your Service, aimed at IT buyers (as opposed to programmers), is just what’s needed.
ANNE THOMAS MANES
VICE PRESIDENT AND RESEARCH DIRECTOR
BURTON GROUP RESEARCH, A DIVISION OF GARTNER, INC.