This article on shadow Cloud computing and the gap between business leaders and IT over on ZDNet (yes ZDNet) got me thinking about if business managers understand what they are asking for when they look to a Cloud solution. I’ve gotten the impression that business leaders think Cloud solutions are some kind of magic bullet that both reduces costs and enabled the business without as much upfront development effort as traditional in-house solutions.
Before anything, it is important for you to look into someone like Salesforce, who can provide you with the basic understanding of what is meant by cloud computing. It can be a topic that, if you are not familiar with, would require some research to be done. But the same goes for anything new.
One of the great attributes of Cloud computing is that you can meet 80% of most business requirements out of the gate. It is the 20% that is going to cost you both time and money. I have answered enough request for proposals to know that Cloud computing has a great appeal to business owners in the early process of selecting a solution for a new business application. Most Cloud providers will do a better job than enterprises of meeting regulatory requirements, security needs and scaling concerns at a reasonable cost. What I’ve found is that Cloud is very similar to enterprise software. You can check the box of functional requirements with most shrink wrapped enterprise software. It’s normally the customization of the software to your business needs that escalate the cost and time to implement the solution. This is were the pain of integration and cost over runs get introduced it what seems like a pretty straight forward solution.
It doesn’t matter if it’s IaaS, or SaaS. The cost of getting a cloud project to a state that it meets the other 20% of the requirements is always the challenge. As in ERP most businesses experience that no matter how much customization they put around their Cloud solution they need to make changes in their business processes. Likewise, just like any other pooled service there is a limit to the flexibility of the platform. We get to sit back and watch world class organizations like Netflix go through the growing pains of Cloud. It can be argued that no other organization has pumped more money into building the Cloud around the needs of their organization as much as Netflix.
Even with all the focus and resources of a company such as Netflix we get to see that there are challenges that can’t be underestimated when considering a Cloud solution. I’m as much for Cloud computing as the next virtualization geek but Cloud isn’t a magic bullet that eliminates the need for in-depth work that gets the other 20% of the capability organizations require. What business lessons have you garnered from early cloud adopters.