IDC expects worldwide spending on cloud services to exceed $55 billion by 2014. Despite so much buy-in, a good number of IT decision makers are still unsure of their options and the financial implications they could have. Because of this, the firm has developed a Cloud Decision Framework Tool, to help IT organizations evaluate their cloud strategies.
“The painstaking evaluation struggles that once plagued the cloud decision-making process have been all but eliminated,” an IDC vice-president said in a press announcement June 14.
At the CloudExpo 2012 event in New York City the day before, this theme was also present, with Kevin Hanes, a Dell executive director, delivering a lunchtime keynote offering advice on helping customers to “drive business change.” Hanes made three points — reiterations of industry themes, really — that are as worth repeating for potential cloud customers as for the people trying to sell to them.
The first point was that the cloud “isn’t a single path, it’s a transformation.” Microsoft’s cloud team has likewise repeated in webinars that the cloud is “a journey.” That can mean, generally, that it’s a thing in flux, to be learned from and tweaked over time.
More literally it could mean, as a Microsoft UK tech specialist laid out in a June 11 blog post, taking advantage of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) features in Windows Azure to upgrade an application in stages — first the front end, then the middle tier and then the backend database.
“Over this journey,” he wrote, “you have gradually increased the value you get from your cloud, on your time frames, in your terms.”
Hanes’ second point was that the cloud can be overwhelming, but a pragmatic solution can help a customer to move forward. He described breaking down a project for a client — a university with limited funds — into manageable stages. Portioning the job not only made it seem less overwhelming but actually enabled the client to begin realizing new savings before it moved on to the next bit.
This made me think of a recent blog post by Forrester analyst James Staten. Alongside an inverted triangle diagram, Staten explained that an appeal of cloud IaaS is that it can offer specific expertise in areas that a majority of professionals are lacking. It’s another example of the cloud simplifying complexities (and stresses) and helping customers move forward.
Finally, Hanes talked about “meeting customers where they are,” or “recognizing that they’ve made investments,” which oftentimes leads to hybrid solutions.
“I think investors sometimes put companies in a box and say, ‘You’re either in private cloud or you’re in public cloud,’” Bill Koefoed, general manager of Investor Relations, said during Microsoft’s April 19 earnings call, resisting such labels.
David Linthicum, writing for InfoWorld has also bristled at this either-or. The focus, he said in a March 30 article, needs to be on the “architecture and the right-fitting enabling technology, including both private and public cloud technology, and not gratuitous opinions.”
He added that companies shouldn’t put a limit on their possible solution options, whether that means private or public or both. All of the above are fine, he wrote, ”as long as you do your requirements homework and can validate that you have chosen the right solution.”
That homework is an important part of this. Cloud solution providers will indeed hold your hand, if that’s what you need. But first you need to decide if you need your hand held.
Have you put off investing in a cloud solution due to feeling overwhelmed or frustrated about where to get started? If so, please let us know by adding a comment below. I am sure our readers would love to help you out.