By Keith Tilley, writing for our sister site, BusinessCloud9
2011 may well be seen as the defining year for Cloud and one that finally cements its place as a technology solution rather than marketing buzz. It continues to be the most talked about subject on the CIO agenda - Gartner recently declared the volume of noise being generated around the Cloud as ‘deafening’ – but there’s no denying that we are starting to see actions rather than words, with some organizations of all sizes moving into Cloud environments.
In research conducted by Vanson Bourne and sponsored by SunGard across 250 UK CIOs, 84 percent of respondents replied saying they have already moved some applications to the Cloud and 82% have already moved some of their infrastructure into the cloud. In addition 43% also said they had plans to move at least half of their IT infrastructure to the Cloud in the next 12 months.
However, recent Cloud outages have served as timely reminder that while the benefits of Cloud are undisputed, arguably the most important part of a CIO’s Cloud strategy should focus on the resilience and security of their data. Enterprises have to be assured that however their own IT environment is comprised, their data is always available. After all, the platform the data is delivered on or stored in is irrelevant if it’s not resilient. If the data’s not available, how can it be of use?
Building support for a Cloud model
There remains a lingering lack confidence in the resilience of many Cloud solutions. While 68% of UK CIOs are happy to outsource data which is not critical or sensitive, CIOs are holding back from committing their most sensitive and important data to third party Cloud providers.
With only 10% of CIOs surveyed feeling ‘completely confident’ in the security and resilience of third party Cloud solutions, it’s understandable there’s skepticism about implementing a cloud-centric strategy for IT – 66% of UK CIOs had already experienced some downtime from apps hosted in the cloud.
It’s no wonder then that disparity in board attitudes (42% of CIOs say that their CFO colleagues have shown opposition or concerns about moving to the cloud) and concern over what can and cannot be stored in the Cloud (accounting, HR and payment systems least likely to be moved to the cloud), have widened the perceived gap between where Cloud services can best be used. It’s interesting to note the top three functions mentioned all deal with sensitive and business critical information.
This suggests that the CIO must look at moving the Cloud computing discussion past technology and economics and onto the major benefits such as business agility, time to market and competitive positioning. CIOs will argue that this approach means their CFO colleagues must afford them license to look at decisions on a strategic basis. This might take longer to deploy than the point solutions CFOs favor, but a more holistic consideration will tend to mean a more business appropriate implementation ultimately.
CIOs like to maintain control but not at the expense of appropriate resourcing, so another challenge is helping C-suite colleagues understand the merits of Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service), and PaaS (Platform as a Service) as it relates to their own business operations, otherwise the chances are the C-suite is already lost.
Resilience planning from step one
For example, understanding what applications are most suited to be migrated to the Cloud is the first step becoming a ‘Cloud ready’ business. It’s not a negative thing that some applications are moved to the Cloud and some are not.
A hybrid model gives a different perspective from the ‘all-in’ mantra of other vendors. This approach allows a customer to combine Infrastructure-as-a-Service with a managed services offering, helping to ensure uninterrupted access to key systems and data in whatever environment they reside. Applications and data are delivered back to the customer irrespective of whether the actual applications are running within virtual or physical environments.
Asking the tough questions
As intimated above, what is needed is for more CIOs to regain control and establish exactly what they need from Cloud offerings. The benefits of Cloud are clear, but the right questions need to be asked from the outset. Some of these core questions should be:
- Resilience – how will you ensure information is available? What happens if there is a data breach? How can you guarantee availability?
- Location – where is my data stored?
- Security – what regulations, standards and procedures are in place to assure me my data is in a safe place?
- Integration and accessibility with existing systems – how will it fit into what is already in place?
- Define the different types of Cloud computing – private / public / hybrid
- Cost savings – how does the Cloud model work? Are there hidden costs?
While the newer breed of Cloud providers has focused on selling the benefits of cloud, of which there are clearly many, organizations are right to be asking the crucial questions about the security and availability of their data and infrastructure before they entrust it to a third party.
Adopting a resilient Cloud model
Our research has shown that while Cloud adoption continues apace, CIOs are holding back from committing their most sensitive and important data to third party Cloud providers. Demonstrating a reputation for having security, resilience and availability baked in to solutions will be key to imbuing CIOs with the confidence to continue to move their more critical infrastructure and applications to the cloud.
Adopting a Cloud model for your company is a multifaceted decision-making process. Before even sitting down at the negotiating table with a vendor, IT managers and CIOs need to make sure they are asking the right questions to the right people. If you are going to put sensitive company information, or mission critical business processes under someone else’s management you need to know they, their IT operation and their future strategy very well and be sure they have the right plans to cater for even the worst business scenario.