With so much having been said about cloud computing and the great promise that it holds, it is but natural that companies examine it for feasibility and usefulness. While there is a tremendous vendor push on one hand, CIOs also face increased pressure from management, who favour a greater degree of outsourcing. However, progress on this front has been slow; there is a lot of smoke and less fire.
The software vendors/service providers are a major driving force pushing this solution; doing their bit to popularize it through advertisements, seminars, mass mailers and newspaper and magazine articles. However, deft handling might produce better results. I shall highlight this point using two examples:
a. Overhype: Though the voice has been heard far and wide, user perception is still hazy and the scene sure is cloudy. Cloud Computing is often touted as a solution for all ills and discouraging users. Vendors would perhaps do better by investing in creating proper awareness. When approached by vendors I have often asked them to study our set up and suggest an appropriate way forward; but the response has not been very encouraging.
b. Are the vendors ready: While the sales representatives do a good job of selling the proposition, they muddle through the next step when discussing details. Often, their tariff structures are incomplete as they haven’t considered various usage and default conditions put to them. Licensing has also been a problem since vendor policies with respect to conversion from the perpetual licensing model (as existing) to the revenue model in the cloud set up, is not clear. License fees for certain software, which are charged on the basis of CPUs used, are also a concern.
The way ahead for users
The user companies, I am sure, are accustomed to hype that gets created whenever new technologies are introduced in to the market. Over time as technologies mature, users also get wiser and slowly start evaluating, having more information at their command. Cloud computing as a solution, in my opinion, is just passing through this phase. Users are becoming more aware and getting into informed debates with vendors. However, they will do well to consider the following:
a. Evaluate and deploy the most appropriate solution: Cloud computing is here to stay. It is however important that we do not jump on to the bandwagon without adequate analysis and a proper assessment of organizational needs. Depending on the current IT landscape and the quality of solutions presented by the vendors, CIOs may find it more appropriate to move on to ‘platform as a service’ (PaaS) or ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) first and then move to the cloud at a later stage. Users should exercise their judgment and not get carried away.
b. Go ahead but exercise caution where necessary: Users often get stuck not knowing where to start. They say they have servers/storage etc. which are still functional and therefore an impediment to moving the applications that run on them. However, all resources will never become obsolete at once, and we will always have machines of different vintage. It is sometimes better to move a new application to the cloud or move a current application which suffers a bottleneck rather than making fresh investments. It is the first step that matters. And if that works, the further march gets so much easier.
In short, ‘cloud computing’ is an interesting journey interspersed with the usual roadblocks and challenges. Adequate planning and preparation however makes the journey easier and fruitful. Where there is a will, there is a way.