What you don't know about cloud adoption doesn't have to hurt you

At least 95 percent of U.S. companies are embracing some sort of cloud strategy. Yet IT leaders struggle to avoid common mistakes and initial purchasing decisions hamper their ability to move forward.

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The verdict is in on cloud computing. Today’s leadership question for companies is no longer “if” they will adopt the cloud into their IT strategies but “how” it will fit. With over 95 percent of companies in the United States now using some type of cloud-based resource in their IT strategies, the technology is here to stay. Yet, as many corporate IT leaders are discovering, the challenge was never about adoption. Utilizing the cloud in a general sense is as simple as signing up for a Dropbox account. The problem has always been about how to distill the “cloud” into a meaningful set of tools that can be used to improve the quality and service of technology offerings.

Viewing the cloud as a purchasing problem

There is a certain amount of mystification surrounding the concept of cloud adoption. Many IT leaders today see this firsthand when discussing the use of the cloud in an overall strategy discussion. Some of the more common statements boil down to questions such as this one: “Shouldn’t we be moving more of our data to the cloud?” Even though the answer is obviously yes, a meaningful response must be more specific. Yet it’s hard to have a discussion about cloud resources when few understand the products and services of which it is comprised.

Although there are thousands of cloud offerings, they all fall into roughly three buckets.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – In this category you’ll find servers, networking, and most importantly storage. If you want to know how Amazon earns so much revenue, look no further.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – This service allows companies to develop applications and host them externally. With the advancement in coding processes and strategies such as DevOps, much of the future development of business applications is going to happen here.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – Most corporate workers are completely unaware of how prevalent this cloud technology is in their workplace. Whether the software is Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, Workday, ADP, or even LinkedIn, it is all being served up from the cloud.

While each of these areas have fancy buzzwords, they are not easily explained. Now, imagine trying to buy cloud services if you can just barely understand the buckets and the vendors that sell within them. Looking at one of the basic cloud transactions, the purchase of bulk storage, from who should you buy? While everyone knows about Amazon Web Services (AWS), is that the best option for your company? Working without guidance, it becomes almost impossible to choose from, quite literally, over two dozen cloud storage vendors.

Even with a well-defined vision for what is needed, determining how and from whom to buy quickly becomes a Sisyphean task.

Find a good broker

Earlier this year, senior CIO writer Sharon Florentine wrote an excellent article on the difficulties faced by IT organizations on secondary cloud migrations. Essentially, these organizations are suffering from an inability to move past their initial foray into the cloud. There are many reasons for these struggles, but almost all of them were hampered by their initial purchasing decisions. When they made that first move, their efforts focused too heavily on vendor selections, contract negotiations, and service agreements and not on what would come next. Utilizing the cloud is not so easy when a company has to take on and manage multiple contracts as a parallel activity.

While many companies are still in the early stages of developing cloud adoption strategies, an interesting new option has recently emerged. There are service providers that act as “middle men” for cloud resource purchasing. Knowing that companies are struggling to match cloud vendors to business needs, these firms have positioned themselves to completely eliminate this problem.

The common strategy that these “cloud brokers” use is to deploy a web portal to their customers. Within this portal, the need (storage, compute, etc.) is described in multiple terms such as size, power, budget, or number of users. The brokers then present this request to the entire spectrum of cloud vendors, choose a winner, and provide the resources back to their client in a ready-to-use state. This process reduces the purchasing exercise for a business down to a one-to-one relationship with the broker. The company utilizing the broker pays for the resources but never has to review a contract no matter how many services are purchased.

This concept is certainly new, but one that holds tremendous potential for helping IT leaders struggling with cloud strategy to jump very quickly into a best practices model. The market is growing, but already companies like RightScale, Jamcracker, and Morpheus are making themselves known. A fourth company, Gravitant, was purchased by IBM in November of 2015 and immediately re-branded as “IBM Cloud Brokerage Solutions”.

These new brokerage offerings may serve to almost completely eliminate the need for IT leaders to have intimate knowledge of cloud service vendors as a pre-requisite to using them.

Don’t forget the change

Managing the aspects of cloud adoption cannot be handled by technology and services alone. According to a recent survey by SADA Systems, organizations, on average, will spend at least one million dollars for any given digital transformation initiative. Using a good partner to craft a good message is a shrewd, complimentary action to include with any cloud adoption strategy.

IT leaders don’t have to continually make the same mistakes when it comes to adopting the cloud. The resources are now in place to do the heavy lifting, leaving you with the time and bandwidth to focus on the goal.

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