Beware Cloud Computing Advice from IT Research Firms

It's nearly 2012, and if IT research firms are telling you to consider moving low-risk applications to the cloud, it means two things: 1) You're hopelessly behind the times. 2) You need advice that's much more cutting-edge.

By Bernard Golden
Fri, December 09, 2011

CIO — I don't know how I missed this, but at the Gartner IT Symposium in October, Darryl Plummer (Chief of Gartner Cloud Research) apparently stated that enterprises should deploy applications in a public cloud provider as a default, and only deploy them in a private cloud if the public alternative is not appropriate.

I became aware of Plummer's recommendation, which caused quite a stir in the blog world when he first announced it, via Twitter earlier this week.

Naturally, much of the furor over Plummmer's pronouncement was a reaction to the quick summary: Gartner prefers public cloud. Wow. That's a big deal, right? Gartner is probably telling all of its clients that they should trim their private cloud plans and instead focus on public cloud service providers. And, in response, all of its clients are scrapping their private cloud initiatives and planning a big move to public providers, right?

Actually, that's quite unlikely, for some very sensible reasons.

First, people misunderstand the nature of analyst firms. They assume that these firms are corporate in nature and monolithic in their positions. In fact, a better way to look at analyst firms is that they are much like professional firms (e.g., law firms, consulting partnerships, etc.). Such firms are comprised of relatively independent individuals, each with his or her own opinion.

For example, one can present the same issue to two attorneys within the same law firm and get two different recommendations about what to do (I speak here from personal experience). Likewise two analysts from the same firm will hold different opinions about the right approach to a specific technology issue.

Consequently, even if one or more (or most) analysts at a firm hold one opinion, there are probably others who hold a different opinion. At the very least, when presented with a specific issue, analysts will likely proffer different recommendations, based on their interpretation of the issue. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that every situation is specific and different. If blanket advice were sufficient, there would be no need for analyst firms. Let me be clear, I'm discussing this phenomenon in general—not picking on Gartner specifically. As I said last week, I am not one to gainsay Gartner.

Second, as a complement to the fact that opinion at analyst firms differs, clients tend to take their recommendations selectively. Companies tend to have their goals and they seek support and affirmation for them, searching until they find third-party advice that can be cited as impartial evidence for pursuing the direction that they have already decided upon. This is crudely referred to as "shopping for an opinion."

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