Oncore IT News - 01 June 2012

To Cloud or not to Cloud? Is that really the question?

There’s a classic statement that for a man whose only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail to hit. By that logic, if you contract with a Cloud-only supplier of ICT services and outsourced functionality, there is a clear risk: its specialists will tend to want to put everything in their Cloud – even when that might not be to your best advantage as a customer. Of course, at an abstract level, there are really very few technology items that are completely resistant to being delivered in a Cloud fashion. The issue is if that would be done at a cost too high for the customer. For instance, if your organisation has limited access to adequate bandwidth, for economic or other reasons, it is unlikely you will be able to provision enough functionality this way. At the same time, if you have useful bespoke software applications that really can only reside on a ‘fat client’ (PCs or desktops that need a lot of local storage and run-time of apps), it is going to be more pragmatic to keep them where they are. The converse, though, is just as true: if you want to run a thin client environment in the Cloud but with a small user base for that application, the licensing impact may be heavy if the ISV then requires you pay for the whole organisation. It is always horses for courses – and applications in the right place doing the right thing.

The recommendation is that any move towards the Cloud therefore has to be in partnership with a consultancy objective enough to map out your current (and desired longer-term) ICT landscape. The aim, as stated, has to be to scope out a proposition that is most conducive to success with the least disruption, and if there is to be disruption, it has to offer promising ROI (return on investment). The emphasis you should be hearing is on total solution design, not ‘Cloud for Cloud’s sake’. A reputable designer will therefore spend sufficient time at the commencement of any relationship at a pre-sales stage capturing not just the business needs expressed but also the existing topology. Budget expectations and service requirements need to be clearly delineated before work begins to avoid any kind of subsequent difficulties. What do you have now, what is missing, what could be efficiently provided by the Cloud are the kind of questions that you should demand full and expert commentary on – well before anything gets put on any kind of new host or ported into to any variety of third party datacentre.

It hardly needs stressing at this point that only the naïve would believe that any kind of transition to a new computing paradigm will of itself deliver instant and permanent savings. A good business computing designer will instead work with a client to identify what benefits will accrue from the move – e.g. improved resilience and security; extended functionality of applications; boosted disaster recovery capacity; greater client empowerment in terms of on-going ICT cost and investment, and so on.

For those people who think a move to Cloud will eliminate the need for, say, any internal infrastructure at all, or minimal to zero hardware investment, it sometimes comes as a mild shock to hear otherwise. This is a reflection, alas, not on user ignorance but on sometimes irresponsible industry hype.

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