by James Staten

How CIOs Can Get More From the Cloud

Jun 14, 20124 mins
CIOCloud ComputingIT Strategy

Enterprise IT leaders are increasingly embracing cloud services. In order for these services to be successful, however, business and IT need to communicate and collaborate. Forrester Research's James Staten explains how CIOs can make the cloud ready for and successful in the enterprise.

Forrester surveys show that many enterprise IT leaders are embracing cloud services — especially SaaS — but tend to see cloud services as inferior to their own internal deployments. Sadly, this view is uninformed. Enterprises that have the most direct experience with cloud services report that clouds can deliver, superior security, performance, scalability, and cost efficiency than traditional IT. But only when the company acknowledges that it has a direct responsibility in configuring the service correctly to achieve these objectives. The bottom line: Business and IT need each other to get the most from cloud services, and only through collaboration does this lead to widespread success.

Slideshow: 9 Cloud Development Platforms on the Rise

The real worry about cloud computing is not in the services it provides, but in the lack of communication about it between the business and IT. Public cloud services do not threaten the role of enterprise IT; they only change it. So to derive the most success from cloud computing, CIOs should:

Gain Hands-On Experience with the Cloud Today

Don’t let your team members pontificate about the shortfalls of the cloud if they don’t have direct experience. Assign a team to experiment with public cloud platforms and learn first-hand what capabilities they can fulfill in their base configuration — and what operational requirements they do not meet in — that must be fulfilled by IT to reach your corporate requirements. “A lot of our assumptions about the cloud got us in trouble early on,” said an application developer for an entertainment company. “But without these hands-on experiences, we wouldn’t be in the market leadership position we are in today.” It only takes a credit card and time.

Don’t Hide Behind the Shields of Compliance or Security

A common excuse from Forrester clients about why they are not embracing cloud computing is because these enterprises are in highly regulated industries and cannot satisfy compliance requirements with cloud services. But there are also lots of applications in your company that do not deal with regulated data or processes, start your cloud experiments with these applications. Doing so will allow you to safely learn what it takes to later put compliant applications onto these platforms, in addition, it will give your security and risk team the opportunity to ferret out potential security issues.

Don’t Reject Cloud on Economic Grounds — Business Agility Might Matter More

The business isn’t necessarily circumventing you because it sees you as unable to deliver what it needs at a cloud price point. Many times it’s because the cloud really can deliver something you can’t. In some cases, you might best the cost of a cloud service internally, but a move to a cloud service might bring other significant improvements. Our Forrsights surveys show that the top reason enterprises leverage cloud services is for greater agility.

Build Your Own Cloud

Clouds are highly automated, shared solutions that give autonomous access and control to empowered leaders. Isn’t that what you want to deliver too? But you can’t get there without understanding the fundamentals needed to do this right. Learn from those who have built private clouds, and consider starting with a solution built as a cloud that can be deployed in-house. If you can’t, put your trust in a service provider that offers hosted private cloud solutions.

Don’t Be Fooled By Cloudwashing & Be Careful Not To Do It

There’s still a lot more hype around cloud computing than there are actual solutions. Since the value proposition is so compelling, many who are doing things that are similar — such as virtualization, application outsourcing, and traditional hosting — are painting over their solutions with a cloud name. If these services don’t provide self-service, high degrees of automation, economies of scale, and cloud economics, then they don’t deliver true cloud benefits. To be a cloud service it must be a standardized service delivered in the same way to every customer. If a vendor asks, “What kind of cloud can we build specifically for you?” — run!

James Staten is a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, serving Infrastructure & Operations professionals.