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Enterprise Cloud Computing: Why You’re Expecting Too Much from the Cloud

Clearly, technology must serve the needs of people and organizations

Cloud computing has so much potential - and has been the subject of so much hype - that it seems to some like a panacea. Information security will no longer be an issue; storage will be limitless; processing power will be immense; and total cost-efficiency will finally become a reality.

Much of the promise of the cloud is true, but not all of it - especially for enterprises. The fact is, enterprise clouds must serve organizations. And organizations are messy. People, policies and conflicting priorities can threaten any major business initiative. Cloud implementations are no exception.

IT folks, for example, often insist on total control. As the business entity held most accountable for enterprise cloud initiatives, IT is justifiably concerned with operational success. However, the result is often cloud applications with no flexibility, tools without autonomy, and functionality without ease of use.

End-user consumers, of course, want empowerment. The self-service cloud model typified by the Amazon Web Services API was sold - perhaps oversold - on consumer control. Such solutions, provided on a pay-as-you-go basis, can quickly turn into overpay-after-the-fact. Without someone to control and monitor their use, cloud services become "blank check" solutions that are no more cost-efficient than existing on-premise implementations.

On the financial side, CFOs are looking for cost assurances. For many enterprises, the cost of IT is the single biggest operating expense. Certainly, datacenters operating in public or private clouds solutions can often produce energy savings and reduced service cost when managed effectively. But finance executives worry that critical business policies - the ones that will produce real cost and computing efficiencies - will not be followed.

Finally, those responsible for compliance are concerned that any mission-critical business system is in compliance with governance rules. For any cloud to work, industry mandates must be followed, Intellectual Property must be protected, and data must be preserved.

When one of these entities wins out at the expense of the others, cloud implementations fail. Innovation may occur - but it doesn't serve the bottom line. Line-of-business personnel get new tools that are difficult and restrictive to use. The enterprise is suddenly vulnerable to potentially catastrophic IT failures. Or, IT administrators are largely out of the loop, and no one is accountable.

Clearly, technology must serve the needs of people and organizations. And that means all levels of the organization. When one part of the organization is allowed to assert itself in enterprise cloud decision-making at the expense of another, imbalances occur and projects miss the mark.

It's essential to the success of cloud initiatives that enterprises seek out the needs and interests of all parties. IT managers deserve visibility in how the cloud is owned, structured and managed - just as consumers should rightly demand the ability, within mutually understood limits, to adjust the compute, storage and networking resources as they see fit in order to adjust to changing business conditions. This can be accomplished by role-based empowerment, where the right level of capability is granted to those with the sophistication to use it, while others perhaps select from a set of pre-built applications.

CFOs should expect that the organization will avail itself of the best possible opportunities for efficiencies in outsourced services, deployment, energy consumption, maintenance and licensing. And compliance is correct that an enterprise cannot function if its fundamental interests, and those of its customers and the public, are not protected.

With an enlightened design and operating environment in place, enterprise clouds can, in fact, avoid the critical missteps that derail so many projects. What's more, the whole actually becomes better than the sum of its parts, since everyone benefits from (and can lay claim to) the performance of the system.

When those responsible for cloud implementations listen to their constituents, cloud solutions can become one of an enterprise's biggest strengths, and deliver true ROI. This is the promise, and the potential, of the enterprise cloud - the hype that can actually turn into reality.

What do you think? What are your experiences and advice for creating a balanced enterprise cloud? Share in the dialogue by tweeting your thoughts/feedback and hashtag them with either #tightrope or #cloudexpo, or post your thoughts online at: www.petemalcolm.com and plan to participate in the live town hall meeting on November 9 in the general session at Cloud Expo 2011 Silicon Valley at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.

More Stories By Pete Malcolm

Pete Malcolm is CEO of Abiquo, a leading vendor of Cloud infrastructure management solutions. Described by SYS-CON's Jeremy Geelan as “a beacon of light amid the murky fog surrounding Cloud Computing”, Malcolm is the inventor of the term “Resource Cloud”, a concept which provides complete separation between physical infrastructure providers and virtual enterprise consumers, with substantial benefits to both. Malcolm was previously founder and CTO of Orchestria, Benchmark Capital’s first European Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and a Senior Vice President with CA, Inc.

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