What Factors Will Prohibit Organisations From Moving To The Cloud?

So the cloud hype train rolls on and we’re all constantly being told how the cloud can help cut costs, increase agility and reduce time to market. The cloud certainly has its advantages and for SMBs and start ups with little or no ‘IT baggage’ the cloud is an attractive proposition.

However, for most enterprises a transition to cloud computing is not something that should be undertaken lightly. Tom Brand, virtualisation practise lead at GlassHouse Technologies UK talks about the main barriers to cloud adoption for enterprises.

Today, a large number of cloud solutions exist in the market place, providing great choice; but this leads to a complex decision making process. Broadly, three core deployment models exist – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service SaaS.

These models are typically provided from an internal (private) cloud, external (public) cloud or both. For more on cloud definitions and deployment models, I recommend reading this article by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Whichever cloud deployment model route an organisation decides to take, it needs to decide whether it wants to use a private or a public cloud, or even a combination of both. For this decision, there are lots of factors to take into account.

Focussing predominantly on IaaS, below I highlight some of the factors that are likely to prohibit enterprises from taking advantage of the two main cloud types and a potential solution to those challenges.

The Public Cloud

In the IaaS space, the public cloud lends itself heavily to the SMB and start-up market because of smaller user numbers, fewer SLAs, off the shelf applications and only basic security compliance needs.

However, for medium to large enterprises, apart from SaaS, the public ‘multi-tenant’ cloud is seen as too high a risk for the majority of their systems for the following reasons: Security and regulatory compliance, Lack of enterprise grade features such as DR and backup, Lack of performance based SLAs, Complex transitions and migration paths, Lack of standards (portability), Data versus server locations, Reliability.

Although the public cloud is generally unsuitable for enterprise production systems, there is no doubt it can be an appealing proposition for test and development environments.

This is where provisioning can be achieved in seconds, security compliance is often less of an issue and the ability to scale down as well as up is commercially very attractive.

The Private Cloud

So if enterprises aren’t moving their production systems into the public cloud, how can they take advantage of the commercial and operational benefits that cloud computing promises to deliver?

There has been a lot of talk over the last 12 months about the ‘private cloud’ where enterprises essentially look to introduce cloud methodologies into their own IT organisation.

Unfortunately more often than not, virtualisation is being confused with cloud computing when actually virtualisation should only be seen as one of enablers for cloud.

At the recent International Cloud Computing Conference And Expo in Santa Clara, US, a number of large enterprises including the CIA presented on their approach to creating a private cloud and the challenges they faced along the way.

The same underlying message came from all speakers – developing a private cloud takes time, significant investment and requires high levels of automation in order to achieve the required ROI. Some of the other challenges that can be expected are listed below:

Initial CAPEX and ongoing infrastructure refresh, Buy in at all levels, Extensive planning, High levels of automation, Significant operational investment, Complex tool and platform selection, Limited in-house skills and time.

In the case of the CIA, it has the size of IT infrastructure that enables them to provide the economies of scale associated with cloud computing, whilst its strict security requirements meant its only option was to develop a private cloud.

The Virtual Private Cloud……..or why not Federate!

It would seem for most enterprises the IaaS Public cloud is still too immature and the initial capital/operational expenditure and time required to develop a true Private cloud potentially outweighs the required ROI.

It’s not all bad news however, many hosting providers and Telco’s are bringing enterprise grade Virtual Private Cloud offerings to market. These offerings place the burden of Capex and Opex onto the service provider but provide the end user with utility computing aligned to needs of the enterprise.

In reality there is no one solution that fits all. Over the next few years more and more organisations will adopt a federated model, taking advantage of SaaS out of the Public cloud and IaaS from virtual private clouds.