Absence of Cloud Command & Control Center is a Barrier to Cloud Adoption in Bigger Enterprises!

Many enterprises are jumping into cloud adoption in their R&D, Marketing, CRM, Collaboration and Lower Tier Business Applications, but there are still several enterprises which are staying on the sidelines. The reasons for such a stance can be several (including lack of knowledge, skepticism about ROI, complexity of legacy applications, and lack of resources for migrations and transformations etc.) but one thing which stands out unfavorable in almost all cases is absence of central command and control center for cloud adoption. Do you think it’s a valid concern?

The sheer absence of having Service Catalogs for enterprise customers shows how big the gap is

In my view, technology to give cloud command & control to central IT is in primitive stages. The sheer absence of having Service Catalogs for enterprise customers shows how big the gap is. There are few solutions out there, to manage the spend with different cloud service providers but there are no comprehensive tools which can keep taps on technology approvals, spending approvals, pre negotiated SLAs (for reliability and security) and pre negotiated contract pricing (demand aggregation) etc. I think traditional datacenter management related vendors can fill this gap, as a neutral party.

In absence of these types of tools, cloud consumption experience can be a bitter one for many enterprises. Of course there are early adopters and technology visionaries working in these enterprises which are taking calculated risks and jumping into cloud consumption.

What are your challenges, when it comes to cloud adoption for your organization or your customers? Is central policy/command & control, one of these challenges?

What’s the best way to launch and consume cloud products & services without any major human resources impediments?

When it comes to launching cloud related new products & services; for technology & service providers, strategy is more important than technology and same is true for enterprises that are looking for such products and services.

For technology & service providers it’s important to understand the challenges of enterprises on resources and organizational structures side. Technology & service providers should play a consultative role, which should enable DIY (do it yourself) approach for enterprises. This approach will ensure organizational endurance and effectiveness for their enterprises customers.

“Cloud Products & Service providers need to promote DIY (do it yourselves) approach for their customers while providing a consultative approach as a trusted advisor!”

For enterprises, it’s imperative to consider workforce analysis and importance of resource retention to keep the essential tribal knowledge about the business and legacy technology in house. To mitigate disruptive risks, it’s advised that enterprises hire front end consultative services for cloud adoption and application transformation rather than bringing big teams or bleeding edge technology from big vendors in house. I suggest enterprises to introduce a ‘cloud veneer’, a small team of experts in front of existing workforce which will ensure existing workforce engagement into the cloud adoption process. This small team should consist of few cloud experts from known vendors and few hand-picked/elite internal resources. Even in case of green-field (lacking constraints imposed by any prior work) applications this approach will be highly effective.

Fact of the matter is that moving existing legacy applications to cloud is no easy tasks and it cannot be done by net new cloud experts.  Knowledge of business side, organizational risk appetite as well as legacy technologies is a must to be successful at moving an organization to produce and consume cloud products and services.

What are your challenges when it comes to cloud adoption?

Looking Forward: How will Cloud simplify lives of people involved in Enterprise IT?

As Cloud progresses towards more maturity, we will head towards ‘Policy Based Computing’ models, this will happen at ‘Infrastructure Level’ and ‘Application Level’.

I envision having a schema/structure (probably XML structures) through which we will be able to describe units of compute needed (in a standard way), network isolation level, storage grade where scalability policy and security policy will be sub components of main schema/structure. We will be able to get this infrastructure up where all provisioning will happen based on policy (comprising of sub policies). I also envision changes to infrastructure will be applied through “Change Policies”.

What are your thoughts?

Most important aspect of Cloud Computing, people…

When we talk about people side of things in cloud context, we can divide it into three categories:

First, people who consume these applications as end users. In my view, impact on end users will be minimal as long as application performance does not deteriorate and end users are assured of their data security and privacy. To address needs of this set of people (where enterprise application is consumer driven), during assessment phase, deeper emphasis on data classification and performance analysis should be placed.

 Secondly, it’s set of people who build, host, operate, manage and service enterprise applications. Cloud is most disruptive for this set of people. In this area, age and architecture of application will play a major role. Newer/younger applications will be easier to handle than old/legacy (it’s a relative term) applications. One way to approach this area is to generate heat maps for enterprise applications (application tier by financial impact on business). Other factors which should be taken into account are relationship with vendors for licensing, servicing & maintenance contracts, you want to make sure that these applications will still be supported be vendors who wrote them and can be serviced and maintained by either the exiting vendors or an alternate vendor (may be cloud service provider). Day to day upkeep of these applications is done by people (through technologies) that includes, monitoring & backup (amongst other things). Another are under this set of people is application dependencies, in bigger enterprises different set of people procure and manage different applications but these applications have to work with each other. People alignment is a big task in big enterprises, difference of opinion or people ego in one group can impact cloud adaption for other applications.  When it comes to this set of people (in second category), a careful consideration should be given to retraining existing workforce to work in new paradigm. From my observations in the industry, I can say this with certain level of confidence that (besides best efforts of all businesses on policies and procedures) there is a lot of tribal knowledge buried in these enterprises which makes them move. Abruptly changing roles or letting people go can be very disruptive. Retention while retaining of existing people for businesses will be a key to smooth transition to cloud.

 Thirdly, moving enterprise applications to cloud will impact business folks especially on two fronts; one is cost structures which will change. In short run there will be costs associated with either moving the applications to cloud as is or for retrofitting/refactoring, two is that move to cloud will have impact on company’s balance sheet. In an ‘old data center’ model servers/switches/routers were considered assets and in cloud world (especially if cloud is provided by a service provider or a separate entity) business will not be able to show these assets on their books. In this area some of industry thought leaders are pushing for legislatures where company’s IP (intellectual property which pertains to expensive software applications) will carry certain money value on balance sheets, which is not the case currently.

 When it comes to moving to cloud, technology is about 30% of the work, rest is people and processes. If people and processes side is not handled properly, move to cloud can be a bitter and expensive experience. I will highly recommend enterprises to engage external (third party) assessors for moving applications to cloud. Drawbacks of putting internal people on this task can cause problems like; biased opinions, entity misrepresentation and too much emphasis in certain areas and too little emphasis in others (missing forest for trees).

I am eager to hear everyone’s input on this one!