An enterprise's size and maturity, or enterprise inertia, has a profound effect on its ability to exploit cloud computing. As enterprise inertia increases from infancy (start up) to mature (large enterprise with well developed IT exploiting virtualization), the ability to leverage the benefits of cloud computing starts high, then decreases, and then increases again.
Infant companies with no IT investment are ideally suited to forgo on-premise IT, immediately implementing cloud solutions. SaaS solutions can be selected for well-defined applications with PaaS or IaaS leveraged for custom systems.
On the other end of the inertia spectrum, mature enterprises having implemented a private cloud can easily extend into the public cloud for managing load requirements, data center expansion, or specific SaaS offerings.
The most difficult situation is encountered with adolescent enterprises invested in on-premise non-virtualized data centers with custom enterprise systems. These CIOs face the most daunting challenges with cloud solutions due to systems integration issues.
Cloud Computing's Security Questions
Finally, no conversation about the pitfalls of cloud computing is complete without discussing security. "How can you expect me to house my precious data in the cloud? It can't be as secure as in my data center under my control!"
The argument is powerful, despite its core flaw: an effective cloud provider, whose business is managing a multitenant data center, invests far more in security that an enterprise whose business is not data center management.
Indeed, it is akin to your money being safer in a bank than in your mattress. But, the psychological barrier still exists in the illusion of security within an enterprise's walls. Perhaps that fear can be mitigated with cloud insurance in which insurance against security breaches is available at discounted rates over similar insurance for on-premise data security. Such discounted rates should be available based on the level of investment in security technologies that the cloud provider maintains.
However, even if these barriers are overcome, satisfying security concerns, a remaining issue is the lag between reality and law. Specifically, even if it becomes obvious that data are more secure with a cloud provider than within an enterprise, archaic laws may demand on-premise data. Eventually, laws should reflect reality, but it will take time.
Cloud Computing's Future
Darwin's theory of natural selection works in technology markets. Although there are fluctuations in adoptions that lead to temporal suboptimality, eventually the market will select solutions that best fit the requirements of society.
The economic benefits of cloud computing will overwhelm the obstacles, demanding solutions that overcome them. There are pitfalls and caveats that CIOs and CEOs alike must beware of in adopting cloud computing, but the biggest mistake of all is to be left behind as competitors take advantage of this inevitable future of the IT industry.
About the Author
Alexander Pasik, PhD is CIO of the IEEE and Adjunct Associate Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University in New York City. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org