These days, cloud computing is jamming up almost all IT discourse. From heady strategy sessions in the C-suite all the way down to the frontlines of the workplace, it seems that everyone is talking about the cloud. In the midst of all this chatter, there is a lot of confusion and, worse, empty hype. What does the future of cloud computing really hold for most CIOs?
If you listened to most vendors, you'd think that deploying cloud computing was as easy as downloading an application on your iPhone: Just buy it and off you go. This is far from the case.
Most of the vendor noise surrounding the cloud centers on needless religious wars, in particular, the fight over public cloud versus private cloud, as well as the speed with which CIOs need to rush to the cloud.
I am always amazed at how many IT executives get sucked into these religious debates in IT. If you let this happen to you with the cloud, you will fail.
While these discussions are important for the researchers and engineers who are building new technologies, they serve little purpose for CIOs and senior IT managers. So leave the religious debates to the vendors, and focus on your business and its goals.
For most enterprises, the deployment of cloud-based services will be a pragmatic affair. So it's time to end the silly religious wars and empty promises that now surround it.
Most enterprises will deploy mixed, or hybrid, clouds. Today's big question--public versus private clouds--is already moot for most CIOs. Just as enterprises deployed mixed Internet access (a combination of the public Internet with Web filters and a locked-down intranet for select corporate applications), so too will most enterprises put some applications on private clouds and other, less-sensitive applications on public clouds.
The real crux of the cloud will be twofold: CIOs will first have to determine which applications will require private cloud infrastructure and which can be hosted in a public cloud. This delicate balancing act will be dependent on a number of factors, including the strategic importance of the applications in question, regulatory hurdles, cost and ROI.
This calculus will help CIOs build a comprehensive cloud strategy that puts the right apps in the right cloud infrastructure. IT executives who do this correctly will have the potential to achieve both impressive scale and solid ROI.
This cloud strategy will not be a set-it-and-forget-it affair. CIOs will constantly have to juggle issues of cost and the changing demands of their businesses, as well as the surrounding regulatory environment. Today's private cloud applications may have to be moved to the public cloud in a few short years--or vice versa.
CIOs will also have to effectively manage and secure the data in their private cloud infrastructure, as well as the data they set in a public cloud. This will require not only a cloud strategy, but also a revised security strategy and a new data storage and warehousing strategy.
Without these new plans, CIOs moving to the cloud will risk damage to their IT organizations and possibly their careers. So it's time to get to work.
Stephen Wellman is senior vice president of community & content at Ziff Davis Enterprise.
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