Complicating the Cloud
Although I've been a proponent of the business benefits of migrating to the "cloud" since before the term was popularized by today's market leaders, I have to admit that the cloud industry is doing a great job of making it increasingly difficult for CIOs and other corporate decision makers to feel confident about making the move.
The success of the leading cloud vendors has proven their Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service solutions actually can deliver tangible and measurable business benefits. These cloud companies are leading a growing army of corporate converts who want to take advantage of the business benefits the cloud companies promise -- but aren't sure where to start or how to achieve their objectives.
Many Paths to Nirvana
The initial success of the cloud movement has created a series of problems.
First, there's the proliferation of players that have entered the cloud market, along with the many established vendors that have rebranded, or "cloud-washed," their legacy software and systems as "private cloud" solutions to gain a foothold in the market during this "cloud rush" stage of rapid industry growth. This issue has been compounded by the consumerization of the cloud by various companies ranging from Apple to Verizon that are calling any online Web service, "cloud-based."
Second, true cloud vendors are trying to keep pace with growing demand by adding more solutions to their portfolios, which is complicating their service pricing and packaging. What was once a transparent sales process is becoming increasingly convoluted.
CIOs and other corporate decision-makers also are discovering that moving to the cloud entails many different paths to nirvana. The simple choice of public vs. private clouds now has various hybrid offerings in between.
Public clouds aren't necessarily multitenant shared services any longer. Now, cloud companies like Saleforce.com are teaming with legacy systems companies like HP to offer multi-instance deployments via "SuperPods." The old idea of software appliances is returning as location-independent cloud services.
The Right Mix
The most important challenge facing organizations seeking to capitalize on the cloud is migrating complex enterprise business processes and workflows that currently exist in legacy software applications, on-premises systems and custom-built data sources. They must now be reengineered and architected to support new business requirements while adhering to rigid industry regulations, which in many cases aren't necessarily in tune with current end-user or market requirements.
Now CIOs and their business counterparts have to determine the right mix of public, private and hybrid cloud resources to blend together. They have to figure out which APIs, connectors and platforms can enable them to integrate the various pieces. They have to identify the best storage and security solutions to capture, and safeguard the data generated by and shared across their cloud ecosystems.
Given all these variables, it is not surprising that systems integrators and consultants are making out well in this environment. They occupy the biggest booths at many of the major cloud conferences and are commanding greater attention from cloud vendors seeking to make them a bigger part of their go-to-market strategies.