Cloud computing — in its current form — has been around for well over a decade now. While it takes on many dimensions, the earliest roots of current-day cloud formations can be traced back to 1999 with the launch of Salesforce.com, and to 2004,with the first Amazon Web Services offering.
With all this activity going on year after, enterprises have accumulated some key lessons on what cloud is and is not all about. So, what have we learned, more than a decade in?
1) It works. A decade on, with organizations of all sizes, from the Forbes 500 to mom-and-pop shops adopting cloud for mission-critical functions, it can be said that the cloud computing model is working well. Yes, there have been highly publicized outages among cloud providers — but it probably only adds up to a fraction of the outages suffered in on-premises data centers.
2) It simply moves computing to another location, period. Cloud computing isn’t a scary new unknown venture or approach to computing. It simply means processing, systems, and often data reside somewhere else on the network, and not downstairs in the server room. (Though parts of it could still be there as well.)
3) It’s relatively safe and secure. Yes, putting data in the cloud is a potentially risky proposition, and this holds many enterprises back from fully embracing cloud — especially public cloud services. But many CIOs admit that cloud providers and their staffs keep up on the latest security measures than CIOs’ own staffs. At the same time, it’s up to cloud users to exercise due diligence when it comes to security — by keeping and eye on things and keep holding vendors’ feet to the fire to adhere to standards and best practices. Enterprises are ultimately responsible for the security of their own systems and data, whether it’s handled by in-house staff or the staff of outside entities.
4) We’re still figuring out the rules of data ownership. When data is maintained or generated by another entity, it’s not clear who ultimately has the rights to and responsibility for the data. Here again, due diligence is called for — you may use cloud to back up data, but always maintain your own copy as well.
5) The termination aspects are still messy and murky. The promise of cloud is flexibility; particularly when it comes to swapping vendors’ offerings underneath your infrastructure. However, it’s possible to get deeply rooted and entangled in a cloud vendor’s environment, making termination as painful as tearing out stitches.
6) It renews the vendors lock-in issues that were supposedly resolved ten years ago. The loss of flexibility to swap vendors as needs dictate is a step backwards in many respects. The promise of service oriented architecture was that the architecture and processes would function consistently and smoothly, regardless of the brand of technology underneath. Cloud makes such vendor-swapping difficult.
7) It requires just as much IT expertise as on-premises systems. Going to a cloud doesn’t mean you don’t have to do programming, integration work, or systems configuration. You still need to be able to do all these things, and ensure the performance and capabilities you need to keep the enterprise running.
8) It’s not necessarily cheaper than on-premises systems. The long-term costs of subscribing to capabilities month to month add up quickly. But cost savings is not the best reason to go to cloud.
9) It hasn’t taken away IT jobs. If anything, it has created new opportunities. IT professionals still need to help make the hard decisions about the best technologies to serve their internal and external clients. The help-wanted ads are full of openings for architects, analysts , operations people and developers who can help oversee organizations’ embrace of clouds.
10) It has elevated the role of IT in organizations. Many IT leaders now have a seat at the table. They now serve as consultants and advisors to the highest levels of their businesses, often with a seat at the table. The business looks to technology leaders not to code, build and run systems, but to provide advice on the best technology directions their businesses should take — be it based on on-premises systems or outside cloud providers.
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