Over the past few years, I’ve spoken with businesses from all industries about their cloud intentions. Increasingly, many recognise the flexibility, responsiveness and economics of public cloud services or a hybrid cloud environment that incorporates some form of public cloud. For some, they know exactly what they want and can’t wait to dive in, to improve their ability be truly innovative and responsive to their evolving business needs.
However, for many, they have reservations and need to take a more cautious and thoughtful approach. They are often overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. So how can businesses avoid this paralysis by analysis?
Although many organisations want to jump into the cloud, one of the most paralysing fears I hear is that while cloud providers do everything they can to make it easy to move data and applications into a cloud, moving back out can be far more challenging. This potential lock in makes many of the more cautious companies worry about making the “wrong” choice in cloud service provider. This applies not only to the initial choice, but the ongoing choice over time. Compounding this fear is the hardest part of the equation – the gravity of data.
Sure, it’s easy to turn compute on and off and move between cloud providers – but managing and moving large amounts of data between the enterprise datacentre and multiple cloud providers appears daunting.
The reality is that enterprise organisations are still weeding through the many choices laid before them. Just about every enterprise IT provider has a solution that they believe addresses the hybrid nature of a modern IT delivery model but these providers are offering very captive solutions, essentially saying “do it our way.”
What’s wrong with any one of the solutions on the market? Other than being captive – there are no obvious downfalls. The problem is that with any of the solutions currently available, the customer is potentially binding itself to captivity, and IT has already learned many hard lessons about lock in. At some point a certain amount of lock in is inevitable, but figuring out which vendor to trust and where that commitment to a particular technology or vendor is going to provide the most value is a very strategic decision so it’s all the more important to choose the right provider upfront.
Now, the big question for cloud is how to select the right service provider for the business. Clarifying IT priorities and matching these with an appropriate cloud provider is an enormous challenge facing organisations. Systematically evaluating the options on offer can mean enormous advantages both now and in the future.
Innovate on your terms
Being able to innovate on your own terms is crucial, so it’s important to look for a provider with an open approach that enables you to build solutions on best-of-breed technologies and applications. Be sure that you will be able to choose not only the technologies and applications that will best support your business, but the partners and cloud service providers with whom you choose to partner. This ability to choose will depend heavily on ensuring that there is a consistent fabric of data and application services across their service providers, which will provide choice not just for the first deployment but also over the entire application and data lifecycle.
Comparing cloud offerings can be complex, and there are numerous questions up for consideration. CIOs must consider factors ranging from data sovereignty and control, security and technical standards, legal and compliance issues, to the cost of migration and support across their cloud data fabric.
Each business’ fabric will be as different from the next as their individual visions for growth, with the cloud but when considered strategically, leveraging the right combination of technologies, applications, partners and service providers across that cloud data fabric will allow them to innovate and best serve their needs over time.
John Martin is the principal technologist at NetApp Australia and New Zealand