Your Cloud Checklist for 2015

By Tony Kontzer  |  Posted 01-07-2011

Five years ago, the cloud computing discussion was in its relative infancy. Big companies recoiled in fear at the thought of giving up any precious data to nascent cloud services. Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud was just a twinkle in some developer's eye. Salesforce.com had yet to launch its  cloud-based application development platform, Force.com.

Fast-forward to the present day. Corporate America is tapping the cloud for everything but the most sensitive mission-critical applications. Amazon's EC2 has become the dominant on-demand computing capacity resource for companies of all sizes. And many of Salesforce.com's customers are using Force.com to build just about every application they need.

So, what do the next five years hold? Industry analysts and IT decision-makers interviewed by CIO Insight expect cloud providers to offer an array of tools for governing their cloud services. These will make it possible for enterprise users to monitor cloud performance, manage cloud resources efficiently, comply with policies and regulations, and perform legal discovery, also known as "e-discovery."

Standards will evolve, enabling cloud services to communicate readily with each other, and making it efficient to transfer workloads between various clouds. And, perhaps most importantly, contracts with cloud providers will finally offer IT buyers the assurances they need that their data is safe, portable and accessible around the clock. (For more on how enterprises expect to use the cloud in the next five years, read our feature article Cloud Forecast 2015.)

These are things you're likely already demanding of your cloud providers. But, what else do you need to know? Here's a five-point checklist:

  1. Accept that many cloud providers already are better at security than you are. What's more, that gap is widening. "The broad issue of all cloud security being weak is gone," says Yuvi Kochar, vice president of technology and CTO for The Washington Post Co. 
  2. Private clouds should not be your end game. Public clouds provide the greatest economies of scale and the most elasticity. "Use the private cloud as a stepping-stone," says Daryl Plummer, Gartner managing vice president and fellow. "If it's your last step, you failed before you even began."
  3. Know how to structure contracts. Don't rely on vendors to think of everything. "You want a good contract, and you've got to spend time on it," says Frank Wander, corporate CIO of The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America.
  4. Understand the workloads you're supporting. Before you choose cloud providers, have detailed knowledge of your application requirements, where data resides and which apps share physical resources. "The IT environment has gotten very complex, and there are organizations in which I suspect CIOs don't know all that's running," says Dan Kusnetzky, distinguished analyst with the Kusnetzky Group.
  5. Seek coordination (not control) of cloud resources. Those who try to put the kibosh on a business unit's rogue adoption of cloud services are on the same fruitless path as the CIOs who fought Web browsers and voice over IP. "Business units are not going to let you take back control," says Gartner's Plummer. "You can't put the horse back in the barn."