Cloud: A disruptive technology that's worth the disruption

Cloud computing is a disruptive technology that promises to upend the enterprise, but the upsides are worth the risk.

It's not uncommon these days for large organizations to have dozens of cloud applications, with some that are redundant (because they were bought by different lines of business to perform the same function), others that are housed on premises in what IT considers a "private cloud," and yet others that reside solely on a public cloud provider's infrastructure.

Then, there's the hybrid approach, wherein applications reside in both the public and private cloud domains. That's the case for Niel Nickolaisen, CIO at Western Governor's University, in Salt Lake City, Utah, who was willing to take on complexity in exchange for the benefits of a hybrid cloud approach that integrates his in-house legacy systems into Software as a Service applications. One motive he cites for moving an application back in-house is the time it took to transfer data between the university's in-house systems and the cloud app, as he explains in this special CIO edition of Modern Infrastructure ezine.

Another challenge is the management tools, or lack thereof, available for hybrid cloud environments. As Gartner analyst Chris Wolf explains in his interview with SearchCIO Senior Features Writer Karen Goulart, "One of the great myths today is that there is all of this centralized hybrid cloud management happening. For the most part, it doesn't exist."

And don't be fooled by vendor claims that their management product works for their competitors' cloud environments. "That's typically when they find out that the features the vendors are advertising are not universal for every environment," Wolf says.

A single pane of glass for managing hybrid clouds may be elusive, but the steady march toward cloud computing in many enterprises is not -- it's part of the business strategy now. To quote a study by advisory services firm KPMG LLP cited by IT and business strategy expert Harvey Koeppel in this issue, "Organizations around the world are gaining valuable insight into not only the potential benefits of cloud, but also the practical challenges of adopting these highly disruptive technologies."

There's that word again -- challenges -- followed by another less-than-welcome phrase: disruptive technologies. But, as Koeppel expounds, the same people polled in the KPMG study cited enhanced ability to enter new markets and the ability to drive business process transformation as two top reasons they chose to move to the cloud.

Do the benefits of the cloud outweigh the challenges including integration, latency and lack of consistent management, not to mention disruption? Apparently, they do. Find out why this disruptive technology is worth all the potential headaches -- and why, if you avoid it, you may have a lot more in common than you think with a switchboard operator.

Please write to me at [email protected].

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