Enterprise IT departments have not embraced cloud services with the fervor once expected, say executives at two major telecom providers who are delivering cloud as well. The reasons are varied, but many are the same today as they were three years ago: IT execs fear moving their critical apps to the cloud means losing control, facing greater security risks and being locked into one provider's cloud.
So while cloud services are growing, for them to succeed as expected, telecom operators have to work harder to help enterprises through the transition and have to improve what their clouds deliver to make it more closely match enterprise requirements.
Doug Junkins, CTO of NTT America Inc. , spoke recently at a conference in Singapore and says he found enterprise executives were mostly raising the same familiar issues. "We are still trying to debunk the same common misconceptions about security, resource control and migration," he says. "There is a level of conservativeness in a lot of enterprise IT executives -- they are not willing to make what they see as wholesale changes."
A recent Verizon Terremark blog on debunking myths about cloud addressed the common issues with language similar to that of cloud conferences held in 2011, an indication that things haven't moved that far that fast. Verizon Terremark's sales of cloud services are increasing, says John Considine, CTO, but that's because business units within enterprises are going out to buy their own cloud-based resources, not because cloud services are being warmly embraced by the IT departments. (See 7 Truths About Cloud Computing.)
"We have taken a careful look at who is buying cloud services from us and in the enterprises that are adopting cloud computing, a lot of the work is coming directly from the business units, from the chief marketing officer, the R&D organizations -- non-traditional IT buyers. In many cases, we are pulling the IT folks along with us," he says.
Considine believes IT executives' fears about cloud services are being fed by hardware and software vendors who stand to lose sales if enterprise applications move to the cloud. "Server vendors, storage array vendors, network vendors -- they are not really interested in having cloud do well," he says. "They will help anyone who wants to, not use cloud. There are a lot of people trying to subdue cloud -- but even in the face of that kind of background drag on the system, cloud continues to grow."
Both Junkins and Considine believe enterprises will be won over by the long-term benefits of cloud-delivered services and apps -- lower capex and opex, greater flexibility in responding to market demands, and even, perhaps ironically, faster disaster recovery. But they say it is going to take more effort on the part of service providers and continuous improvement both in the cloud services themselves and in how the transition to cloud is managed.
"We are taking an educational approach," says Junkins. "We need to be able to demonstrate these benefits clearly to our customers. Any time your servers are connected to the Internet, there will be some level of risk and cloud isn't any different on that score. But you can use data duplication and move service from one location, so that if there is a disaster in California, for example, and the data has been backed up, then we can have you up and running more quickly on servers available in Virginia."
Considine says his team is constantly looking for success stories, where enterprises are using cloud to a competitive advantage, and he expects to see cloud continue to gain momentum in this way as well.
But the other piece of it is acknowledging that cloud services still need to mature, he adds. Verizon has been actively promoting what it calls the "cloud of tomorrow" via blogs such as this one, trying to drive home the difference between the service it offers and what is more commonly thought of as commodity clouds such as Amazon Web Services and others. Verizon also is talking about what needs to happen next for cloud services to succeed across a broad spectrum of enterprise applications, including some mission-critical ones.
More commodity cloud deployments require enterprises to plan for the potential failure of any component at any time, Considine says. That may work for applications that are stateless and can easily horizontally scale, but many critical enterprise apps don't fit that profile and would have to be substantially re-written -- a process for which enterprise IT folks don't always have the talent or the tools, he adds.In addition, all the effort and expense enterprises have spent around performance management goes away with a commodity cloud service, and the enterprise is forced to accept technology choices made by its cloud vendor, which leads to the loss of control and insecurity many enterprises fear.
"What we are asking is, are these attributes of cloud computing or the current implementations?" Considine says. "By doing cloud better, more workloads can go into the cloud, enterprises can find it easier to take advantage of it and you actually reduce the aspects of lock-in cost and the burden of making the transition and you end up with an overall better solution."
That's the solution-sell more telecom cloud providers are likely to be taking.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading