The Cloud Is the Answer (Apparently)

The cloud is the answer.

Now, what was the question?

Depending on your point of view, this comment either makes you pump your fist in enthusiastic agreement – or shake your head in strong defiance. Folks tend to be either hardcore cloud “fans” or vehement cloud “detractors,” and often there is not much middle ground between them.

Having been around the cloud world for several years now, I have witnessed all variation of attitude toward the cloud, and in this post I want to focus on two positions that I see as extremes – but that I also come across way too often.

One is, “If I can do it, everyone can or should too.”

The other is, “If I can’t or won’t do it, no one else can or should either.”

Let’s look at these two cloud attitudes – can we call them clouditudes? – and expose their respective flaws.

It may come as a shock to you coming from a Cloud Evangelist like me, but the cloud is actually not the right answer for every situation in every company. I see articles and posts all the time about how if you aren’t moving to the cloud you will get left behind as a dinosaur. This is the, “Cloud is the answer for everything,” crowd.

Picture this scenario: the CEO or some other high-ranking C-level exec rushes into the office fresh from a life-changing business conference, having heard about all these companies moving to the cloud and how it has revolutionized their businesses and helped them run circles around their competition. “We’ve got to start moving to the cloud IMMEDIATELY! It’s imperative, let’s GO!”

I can just hear some of you laughing right now because this exact thing, or something very near to it, has already happened to you. And for those of you who have actually been the C-level exec doing the frantic running into the room, I would encourage you to take a deep breath and relax.

It’s OK: your business is probably not going to disappear tomorrow without the cloud. You’ve got time to make a well-informed, thoughtful decision appropriate for your company.

It’s certainly true that the advancement of cloud technologies has indeed opened many doors for new types of services that weren’t feasible before. BUT, although moving to the cloud CAN be revolutionary for an organization, it is definitely NOT a magic bullet that cures all that may ail your firm. And just because someone else did it doesn’t mean that everyone can or should do it as well. Your mileage may vary.

So, what do I recommend? Identify the areas of technology within your company that you want to improve, or business problems you are having challenges solving via traditional means. Create cross-functional teams tasked with looking at these issues and determining potential ways of solving them. If there is a traditional (i.e., non-cloud) way as well as a cloudy way to fix the problem, have the team go through a SWOT and TCO analysis of both. Finally, have this group present their findings and recommendations to the leadership team. I guarantee that if you follow this methodology, the cloud will not always win. And that is OK.

Here’s one last note on the mentality of,“Cloud is the answer, what was the question?”

A closely-related sentiment that I have started hearing more and more is, “AWS (or Azure) is the answer, what was the question?”

Just like its ill-advised cousin – thinking that the cloud can solve all technology or business issues – it is similarly ill-advised to think that one single cloud provider is the one best vendor for all cloud deployments. While it’s true that the large public cloud providers have a lot of great offers and are a good fit for many use cases, you should always ensure that a service provider meets your company’s main criteria for cloud deployment success.

Also understand that the “big boys” of cloud generally have a “take it or leave it” mentality. When it comes to doing business with them, it’s basically the same as Henry Ford’s response to the question of car colors: “Any color you want as long as it’s black.”

Given this, if your company has specialized requirements or need flexibility from a contracting perspective, you may want to look at a smaller, more nimble cloud service provider willing to adapt to your situation.

Now let’s switch gears and turn to all the cloud naysayers. You probably know people like this. These are the folks who often say, “If I can’t or won’t do it, no one can or should.”

Admittedly, this group is growing smaller and smaller, , but I am always surprised by how many are still out there. These people have usually either tried cloud and it didn’t work out, or they don’t have the confidence, skills, or desire to make the move to cloud. In fact, this group suffers from the same problem the previous group does, but in reverse: they assume things about the cloud – like maybe that it can’t be secured properly, or that performance is going to be an issue, or that the costs will get out of control – and then let those false assumptions define their position without seeking out additional information.

So, even though the cloud COULD help them with some of their technology or business problems, they are unwilling to give cloud a try or allow others under their influence to use it either. These are the folks that check the NEVER box to the survey question that asks, “When do you foresee moving some of your workloads to the cloud?” They’re dug in and not likely to change their minds anytime soon.

The sad result of this naysayer attitude is that they (and their companies) might be missing out on some of the great benefits of cloud computing – things like:

  • Using operational expense instead of capital expense to fund solutions
  • Faster time to test and develop the next great product
  • Freeing up costly IT resources for more important projects than babysitting hardware or software.

To name a few, the list is long.

Stepping back, my hope is that in time there will be more people with moderate, relatively pragmatic views of the cloud. Hopefully the, “Cloud first, second, third, and always,” folks will be tempered by this fact: the cloud is NOT the right deployment model for every app and every situation in every company.

And I also have hope that the, “Not in my network,”folks will realize that sometimes a cloud deployment IS the right way to solve a problem if it is evaluated with an open mind and implemented with reasonable expectations and controls.

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