What's Behind That Cloud?

Tom Ahlemeyer, ASG

"Everybody's talking about cloud computing," started Tom, "but if you look at revenues you will be disappointed." I have posed this same question to a number of people, and continue to get a similar response. But Tom had a different spin on it: "It's probably more helpful to break down the term ‘cloud computing' into a better set of definitions. It's better to look at ‘cloud use cases.' If you do that, you have a lot more to be happy about," he promised.

"There are active use cases like ‘data center virtualization with automated deployment,' or ‘self-service catalogs,' or ‘desktop transformation' or ‘workspace aggregation.' Those enterprise projects don't have the word ‘cloud' in them anywhere, but integrated all together, as they're being done now, they really add up to an overall cloud strategy. So," he continued, "many more companies than you think are well on their way to a cloud strategy without really calling it that! When you talk to IT management at a high level, they don't even want to hear the term ‘cloud computing.' They want to talk about the real stuff, quote unquote." Even from Portugal I could see him making air quotes with his fingers.

Tom thinks the code word for cloud is automation. "That's what they're working toward now. Data center automation Self-service catalog automation. These are the building-block use cases that are driving organizations into the cloud. Even if they don't call it that." Which they don't, apparently.

"This is also where all portions of the business come together," Tom continued. "This is where IT services become part of the business-side drivers for the company. In fact, this is the one place where both parties have to come together."

That's one of the great benefits of the cloud, I'm learning: That all business units are now working together for common goals. "Yes," agreed Tom. "This is where they work in parallel, and become a little less selfish. This is where the term ‘best' comes into play—how the business can develop strategies for creating best practices, and how the IT side can create the best architecture to make that happen."

I wondered whether this cross-pollination of organizational departments, with their sometimes-competing agendas, was more hope than reality?

"Yes, in theory it's important for all these groups to work together, but in reality, it's a tough task. And it can be even harder for an outside partner (like us) who knows what needs to be done in terms of cooperation, but doesn't have the ability to implement that cooperation," said Tom. "A software vendor is not a consultant... they sell software. But they should play an educational role, definitely, because the only way to get to a successful software sale is to educate the customer, show them other experiences people like them have had, and to explain what they need to know about adopting a cloud strategy."

Like explaining why they needn't be worried about security...? "Data security is not really the issue," he insisted. Because of its centralized nature," Tom said, "you can be much more secure than the current model that many companies today are using." What HAS dampened cloud for many organizations, Tom claimed, are the many misunderstandings early in the projects, causing organizations to stumble and become reluctant to try again. "The solution is for companies to work with partners who have experience in cloud and who can introduce it slowly, through a step-by-step approach. It requires a lot of education and support from partners."

That begged the question: So, who's in charge? Who do you have to convince? "We know who we HAVE to talk to, but we also know there are others in the organization who we SHOULD talk to. C-level involvement is absolutely crucial. They're the only ones who can provide the support (and the motivation) to stop the organization from thinking and working in silos," Tom said. "Cloud requires a horizontal view of the organization, and there's still a lot of silo thinking among IT organizations. It's very hard, but necessary. It definitely works best if you can get to the C-level and convince them to drive the initiative. They're the only ones who can get the cross-departmental initiatives underway," he said.

"And it's not necessarily the boardroom," added Tom quickly. "Senior IT executives can have the same influence by explaining what's behind the drive toward a cloud infrastructure, and how all the departments have a role in its success. They can describe best how the infrastructure works today, and how it SHOULD look in a cloud strategy. Once everyone can understand and gain insight from their experience, then it becomes easier to adopt projects throughout the organization."

The final question I had for Tom went directly to that point about departmental cooperation. How, I asked, can you get departments to work together when—in most companies—they probably wouldn't recognize each other at the Christmas party? Business has its own agenda, and they will do whatever it takes to get their jobs done, even if it means defying the IT department's wishes. Correct?

"Shadow IT is definitely a fact. Users will go around IT and go shopping for services and apps they like more than the internal apps they've been provided. And surprisingly, that's a good start for a cloud workspace aggregation strategy, because those external applications should be integrated securely into the company's IT strategy," he claimed. (Sort of an if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em approach.)

Well, I choose to join ‘em. Read the following pages to learn what the cloud can mean to YOUR businesses.

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