Cloud Computing's Current Woe: Analysis Paralysis

After two years of cloud hype, many IT leaders are still confused about how to analyze the benefits of cloud for their specific needs, new research shows. That's bad news for vendors and users.

A recent study from application integration/app hosting company Hubspan added to the pile of research showing that a significant percentage of corporate IT people are "confused" about both cloud computing technology and its potential benefits.

More than 60 percent of the companies in the Hubspan study said cloud computing was a strategic direction. Thirty-six percent had at least one SaaS or cloud-based application and an additional 25 percent planned to move a business application to the cloud. Only 13 percent had no plans to add a cloud or SaaS-based project.

The top reason 39 percent had not yet moved into cloud computing? They were unclear on the potential benefits of cloud computing.

"You have to ask how they can say that," says Bernard Golden, CEO of consultancy Hyperstratus and a CIO.com blogger. "Do these people work in the technology world? Have they been living under a rock?"

[Is it really just SMBs running apps in Amazon's public cloud? No way, says CIO.com's Bernard Golden. See The Truth About What Runs on Amazon . ]

The amount of information—and hype—about cloud computing has been so intense in the IT industry for the last couple of years that it seems almost impossible for someone in the industry to not understand the basic concept and benefits of cloud computing.

"What they may mean is they don't understand how cloud computing may apply to them, to their company particularly," Golden says.

There has been a lot of confusion about what a cloud actually is, let alone what benefits it could bring, according to Sean Hackett, research director for The 451 Group.

For example, a July 6 Forrester Research study found many companies "suffering from cloud confusion" caused by the number of dissimilar products assigned the name "cloud" as a marketing effort.

Cloud Pilot Projects Don't Answer All Questions

For the most part, though, CIOs and senior-level IT executives who say they're 'confused' about the benefits of cloud computing may already have run at least one cloud project, Hackett says.

"They've got everyone saying 'you have to try this,' the board wanting them to test it, the CEO wanting them to get into it, so most have picked some low-hanging fruit, leveraging cloud capacity for a one-off marketing event, or for some DR or test purposes," Hackett says. "Later on, if they're thinking about doing a larger project, or putting something mission-critical in the cloud, they're going to be a lot more careful about knowing for sure that there's a long-term financial benefit and how it will work with their infrastructure."

But for those who haven't even run a pilot project, Golden says, the amount of hype and pressure to try a new technology could be paralyzing.

"Everyone says they're doing it, and you hear the benefits, there are some people who will just shrug and say they have to go do the backups," Golden says. "If you really don't know about cloud, you'll have to eventually to answer other people's questions, and the way we recommend for people to get their level of information is to run a pilot project with a specific plan in mind to answer the questions you need answered."

There is no source of information that can comprehensively answer whether cloud computing will be a financial benefit for a specific company or not. So, at some point, even IT executives at companies that don't adopt new technology easily have to roll up their sleeves and figure out how a new technology does or doesn't match their requirements, Golden says.

"We're going from an early stage of cloud to a more serious one, so people who say they don't understand is a reflection of CIOs sharpening their pencils to look at the financial benefits really hard," Hackett says.

"It's like buying a first car for your kid; you look at the ads, check out some deals, but you're basically going through the motions because you know you're going to buy something cheap," Hackett says. "If you're talking about the family car, or say you want a Mercedes or something in that class, you're going to sharpen your pencil and do a little more homework on pricing and reliability and long-term finances."

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