One of the biggest questions facing companies today is what to make of cloud computing. Does it signal a major shift in how we approach IT — and the business — or is it just another ride on the hype wave that will disappear if we just wait it out?
HP tackled this question this month with a series of virtual conferences, “Cloud: Practical Advice for Taking the Next Steps,” whose aim was to cut through the fog and to try and point business leaders and IT executives in the value-oriented direction.
A panel of industry analysts, practitioners, and HP experts outlined the value proposition of moving to the cloud, the danger of inaction, and how companies can get started on their cloud journey.
The only choice that’s a really bad choice is to do nothing with cloud computing at this point. Having a strategy and moving forward is very important.
For those who didn’t catch the virtual conference live, HP has made the replays available.
Tom Kolopolous, president and founder, of The Delphi Group, opened the series as keynote speaker by stressing the opportunities cloud model provide for innovation, especially during an economic downturn.
Cloud, Kolopoulos said, is a key enabler of innovation. For those who might question the ability to innovate during an economic crisis, Kolopolous had some sage advice: “When you tighten the belt, innovation becomes more of an issue … you can’t innovate if your stomach is full. You only innovate when you’re hungry.”
Tom Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst of Gartner echoed similar themes in his closing keynote, in which he stressed that the risk of inaction was the greatest risk enterprises face today: “The only choice that’s a really bad choice is to do nothing with cloud computing at this point. Having a strategy and moving forward is very important.”
Other speakers included Ken Hamilton, director of data center synergy and cloud computing for HP; Tim van Ash, HP director of products for SaaS; Archie Reed, who is HP’s chief technologist for cloud security and the author of several publications, including The Definitive Guide to Identity Management; Jim Reavis, executive director of the Cloud Security Alliance and president and founder of the Reavis Consulting Group; Chris Whitener, HP chief security strategist; Duncan Campbell, VP worldwide marketing, HP; Chris Rence, a CIO from FICO, and Alan Wain, VP solutions infrastructure practice, HP.
Tom Koulopoulos: My advice is that number one, don’t look at the cloud simply by looking at what’s available today. Think of it as a long-term trend that you will have to adapt to, and you have to begin that adaptation now. You can’t wait until it’s fully evolved.
Begin moving down that road with non-core applications, applications and services that maybe aren’t as critical to the regulatory aspects of your business, to those aspects that would involve more security concerns, and in that way, you acclimate yourself to the cloud. You begin to understand what it means to work, to live, to run a business in the cloud, and the rest of these issues will resolve themselves, and they’ll resolve themselves for the same reason that they always do — because of pure economics.
When the cloud becomes important enough that we rest enough our economic value on it, we will invest enough to make sure that the security issues have been addressed, but it’s an evolution. So don’t look at the cloud and say, “Well, it’ll never work because today, here’s what exists.” Look at the cloud and say, “I have to evolve with it.”
Tom Bittman: There really are three major benefits. One is cost, the idea of sharing, the idea of economies of scale definitely can reduce cost. But this one, I think, is often overstated and companies that are looking at cloud computing primarily as a cost benefit are probably missing some of the bigger benefits. Another benefit that is very important is quality of service.
In other words, it’s the ability to specify explicitly what your service requirements are through a services-oriented interface to set your service levels high or low, to set your performance requirements high or low, depending on what you need, and base your price based on the service levels you need. That quality of service is something that might be very valuable to a business to adjust over time based on changing business dynamic cloud services.
Another part of that that’s important is the ability to change quickly. That gets to the third benefit which I think is the most important, and that’s agility — the ability to spin up a new business, to spin up a start-up requirement in an enterprise, the ability to change your service level requirements or to change your scale very quickly.
This not only helps the bottom line in a typical company but it helps the top line. It can help a business grow. It can provide a competitive advantage to be able to react to a business change very, very quickly at the speed of business instead of at the speed of IT.
Archie Reed: Security, just like cloud, is hard to define. It’s a very broad term when we think about. It can be many different things for different people. When you get to cloud security, first off, you’ve got to define which part of the cloud you’re talking about — which cloud service, which cloud computing model you’re talking about. Then we can talk about which specific security aspects apply to that part of the model.
What we do is look to standards, taxonomies; ways of talking about this that make sense both to the business people as well as the technology people … Cloud computing represents phase 2 of the Internet where we’re actually leveraging the Internet connectivity to create this utility of computing. It changes everything.
Tim van Ash: HP’s approach with Cloud Assure is really about enabling business confidence in the cloud. It’s about mitigating risk and you talked about risk management earlier. We’re really attacking four key categories. We’re attacking security, performance, availability and service levels, and controlling the ongoing cost. Now, why do we go after those four elements? Well, they’re consistently the top four elements that we see from both analysts and customers alike and they map pretty well to the seven deadly sins that Jim talked about right upfront.
Jim Reavis: Don’t read the research in and of itself and assume you’re going to get all the answers. Use it with partners and consultants that you trust, that you know you can work with. Use it in conjunction with our broader guidance of best practices. Use good risk management practices and with that, you can be pretty confident that you’ll come up with a good strategy for how you should adopt cloud.
Duncan Campbell: Number one is to make your services shareable. So yes, that makes sense. It’s very intuitive and a first step in that, of course, is really, to think about it from the point of view of the audience. The audience being your application guys, your testers. Having your services available to them in a shared service environment is really the first step and to be able to provision that in a much more rapid fashion.
Second is to make your services more consumable. … You want to be able to consume that service very importantly and intuitively like in a monthly type of fashion. You’re paying for what you use. What’s also very important is that not only are you presenting it in a consumable fashion, but then also that resource is then returned to the pool.
Third point is to make those services more valuable. It’s really tied to a very critical and relevant business outcome and also very importantly then how we can improve upon that. These three points really speak to a pragmatic evolutionary approach. It’s not a rip in replace. It’s not like you’re going to turn the switch and jump to a private cloud, but I think these are three great suggestions in terms of how to really make that evolution in a very pragmatic way.
Chris Rence: VMs and the cloud are kind of like candy. They’re easily consumed but that doesn’t mean they’re all being used. That’s where the management tools really come in handy, to make sure that a group that’s leveraging the cloud, what you’ve basically taken and given to them to use — are they truly using it, or is it something that they needed but they’re not sure when they’re going to get to it?
Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP sponsors Briefings Direct podcasts.