Cloud computing is still plagued by a myriad of myths. Misconceptions have consequences: they can slow enterprises down, delay innovation, and stoke unwarranted fear. While cloud computing has become more mainstream in the last five years, certain myths persist. Cloud computing is about capabilities delivered as a service, with a clear boundary between the service provider and the consumer. For most people, this creates a scenario in which “in the cloud” means “where the magic happens”. It’s little surprise that such an environment engenders myth and misunderstanding.
Amid the confusion and hype that continue to shroud cloud computing, CIOs need to separate fact from fiction, and understand the top myths surrounding cloud that persist in 2020.
No. 1: Cloud is always about money
A prevailing cloud myth is that it guarantees financial savings. While this is sometimes the case, there are multiple other reasons for migrating to the cloud, the most common of which is for agility.
All business decisions, including cloud decisions, come down to numbers. Even if agility is the ultimate goal, cost remains a concern. CIOs shouldn’t assume that they’ll save money until they’ve assiduously analysed the situation.
Gartner advises utilising total cost of ownership and other models on a case-by-case basis. Segment cloud into use cases and look beyond cost issues. It is important to ensure that the business does not have unrealistic cost saving expectations that aren’t realised.
No. 2: You have to be cloud to be good
Cloud-washing, or the tendency to call things cloud that are not, may be accidental and a result of legitimate confusion. But IT organisations and vendors call many things cloud as part of their efforts to gain funding, make sales, and meet ill-defined cloud demands and strategies. The result is the myth that an IT product or service must be cloud to be good.
Rather than relying on cloud-washing, call things what they are. Many other capabilities, such as automation and virtualisation, are strong enough to stand on their own.
No. 3: Cloud should be used for everything
While cloud is highly suitable for some use cases, such as variable or unpredictable workloads or for where self-service provisioning is key, not all applications and workloads are a fit for cloud. For example, unless clear cost savings can be realised, moving a legacy application is generally not a good use case.
The cloud may not benefit all workloads equally. CIOs shouldn’t be afraid to propose non-cloud solutions where appropriate.
No. 4: “The CEO said so” is a cloud strategy
“The board” or some other elusive entity can take the place of the CEO in this myth. Many companies still don’t have a cloud strategy. That cloud strategy needs to be based on sound business goals and realistic expectations.
A cloud strategy should be more than a mandate, it needs to identify business goals and map potential benefits of the cloud back to them. Cloud should be seen as a means to an end. However, the end must be specified first.
No. 5: We need one cloud strategy or vendor
Even despite more interest in multicloud today, many businesses still seek simplicity. However, cloud computing is one singular offering, and a cloud strategy has to be planned accordingly. Cloud services are broad and span multiple levels, models, scope and applications.
A cloud strategy must be capable of accommodating the use of more and more cloud services. Organisations need to realise that attempting to source everything from one vendor will be highly unrealistic. A single cloud strategy makes sense only if it uses a decision framework that allows for and expects multiple answers.
No. 6: Cloud is always more secure than on-premises capabilities
In the past, cloud computing was perceived as less secure than on-premises capabilities. However, security breaches in the public cloud are rare, and most breaches involve misconfiguration of the cloud service. Today, the majority of cloud providers invest significantly in security.
But this doesn’t mean that security is guaranteed in the cloud. Cloud security is a shared responsibility between the provider and the consumer. CIOs should not assume that cloud providers are not secure, but should also not assume that they are. As security levels of cloud providers vary, CIOs must assess their actual capabilities and potential provider’s capabilities and hold both to reasonable standards.
No. 7 Multicloud will prevent lock-in
Businesses typically tend to start with one cloud provider, but eventually become concerned about being too dependent on the one vendor, so start entertaining the use of another. This is known as multicloud. Multicloud can also take a functionality-based approach. For example, an organisation might use Amazon Web Services as its primary cloud infrastructure provider, but decide to use Google for analytics and big data.
IT leaders should not assume that simply including multicloud as part of the cloud strategy addresses all issues around lock-in. If lock-in is identified as a potential issue, then it warrants a more focused effort on addressing real solutions.
No. 8: Once I have moved to the cloud I am done
There are many different paths to the cloud, ranging from simple rehosting, typically via infrastructure as a service, to a complete changeover to an application implemented by a software as a service (SaaS) provider. Cloud is as much an operating model as it is a technology. Organisations that find success with cloud adapt their operating process to fully leverage cloud principles.
To take advantage of cloud capabilities, it is essential to understand the model and have realistic expectations. Once a workload has been moved, the work is, in many ways, just beginning. Further refactoring or rewriting is necessary to take advantage of the cloud. Ongoing cost and performance management will also be key for success. CIOs and IT leaders must be sure to include post-migration activities as part of the cloud implementation plan.
No. 9: Organisations are moving back from public cloud
The idea that workloads are being repatriated from the cloud is wishful thinking on the part of legacy vendors who would benefit from this myth coming true. In reality, most companies have not moved cloud workloads back. Of those that have moved, the majority are not coming from cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS), but rather from SaaS, colocation and outsourcers.
However, it should be noted that not every cloud migration is successful. Nevertheless, organisations are more likely to address problems as they arise rather than abandon their cloud strategy and move applications back to their original location.
No. 10: We have a cloud implementation/adoption/migration strategy
There are three levels to devise a cloud strategy INSTEAD?. The first is a long-term business strategy, which comes from the CEO or the board of directors and is intended for everyone to understand the organisation’s mission.
The next level is strategic plans. These are more midterm, and there can be many of them. This is where cloud strategy is incorporated. Finally, there are operating plans. In the cloud world, this is a cloud adoption plan, a cloud implementation plan or a cloud migration plan. These plans are often erroneously referred to as the cloud strategy.
The cloud strategy should be the foundation for the implementation plans. Simply declaring “we’re all in” is not a strategy. A cloud strategy must be comprehensive, explicitly stated and entirely separate from implementation plans.
As CIOs and IT leaders plan their cloud usage in 2020, having a strong understanding of what’s myth and what’s reality will help form realistic expectations around cloud computing. Debunking these myths is critical if organisations are to successfully take advantage of the many benefits that cloud can offer.
David Smith, Distinguished Research Vice President Research, Gartner