Much Ado About Something

So much has been written about, agonized over and said about cloud-based solutions lately that I think it’s time to make a few observations about what it is…and what it isn’t. Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way. Cloud is nothing more than a way to share the breathtakingly enormous cost of a critical infrastructure asset across a broad number of users, so that the cost can be amortized to make it affordable to a larger audience. That asset might be computers, security, operating systems, storage, applications, or even telecom infrastructure, as we’re now seeing with the arrival of Network-as-a-Service. 

 Cloud offers a virtual resource, meaning that it gives the appearance of dedicated, private ownership when in fact, it’s not. Its greatest advantages are important. First, it eliminates the need for a customer to make vast capital investments in IT infrastructure, instead spending OPEX dollars that can be more flexibly allocated. Second, it means that IT services are now treated the same way as utilities—you pay for what you use, and only what you use, just like water, gas, and electricity. Finally, it becomes a managed service, delivered from a trusted third party’s data center, demonstrating that IT is all about business productivity, flexibility, scalability, and responsiveness to customer requirements—NOT technology.

 My fundamental question is this: If you’re not in the business of running a data center, why are you running a data center? Here are the reasons. First, security is daunting, and there is a chronic lack of in-house expertise. Furthermore, IT professionals are expensive and hard to find. Most data center applications require 24/7 uptime, yet 40% of all private IT shops still run windows server 2003—and it isn’t even made anymore! 

 The list goes on. Upgrades are expensive and have low return; it’s virtually impossible to predict storage growth; infrastructure must be sized for peak usage; scalability is slow; and, if you have to scale up for a temporary need, you can’t ‘unscale’—once the equipment is installed in your data center, it’s there to stay.

 It’s time to adopt a more mature view of managed services and start looking very seriously at third party managed resources. There is no downside—it’s all good.