Cloud computing: CIOs are taking back control, but is it already too late?

The IT department has taken responsibility for cloud computing decisions which were previously made by business execs keen to get started with the technology.

In the early days of the cloud computing it was routine for tech executives to admit that they had little idea of, or control over, the use of the technology within their organisations; developers would cheerfully pay for cloud storage or processing power using their credit cards, forcing CIOs to turn detective to work out what was being used, when, and by who.

But it seems that the IT department has now caught up and is reasserting its control over cloud spending, with either excellent or disastrous timing.

Over 80 percent of cloud spend is now managed by the IT department, and 62 percent of that has the direct involvement of the CIO, according to research by Verizon.

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The use of cloud computing is also increasingly widespread: Verizon's research claims that 65 percent of enterprises are now using some form of cloud and its survey of its own cloud customers found that 71 percent are running external-facing production applications in the cloud, up from 60 percent last year.

While business leaders such as the CMO are involved today in initiating cloud projects — with  the business unit specifying the requirements — the report said it is the tech team who actively own most cloud decisions, particularly when it comes to IaaS and platform as a service (PaaS) purchases.

So what changed? According to the report: "In the early days of cloud, many IT functions were still focused on their core infrastructure and operations role. They were unprepared for procuring, managing, and delivering cloud services to their organizations. It took time for them to develop the commercial, contractual, governance, and management skills needed."

The report said IT departments have now developed their skills and now have thorough mechanisms in place for specifying and managing procurement, governance, and performance.

"This is the only way to establish and obtain the required standards of compliance, security, reliability, performance, and value for money in service delivery," the report said.

That re-skilling of the IT department may have arrived just in time: after the stratospheric hype around cloud in the last few years, it could be time for a re-evaluation. According to analysts Gartner, cloud computing is about to slide into what is rather evocatively describes as the 'trough of disillusionment' where the grinding reality of getting a technology to work outweighs the hype and excitement around it. Cloud-washing (where vendors stick the word 'cloud' onto the front of existing technologies) plus security worries and failures are likely to take some of the gloss off cloud computing during this phase of its development.

So depending on how you look at it, CIOs and IT departments are taking over just in time to avert catastrophe, or just in time to get blamed for it.

It's also worth noting that there will be still be significant elements of the IT infrastructure that won't be moved to the cloud any time soon. While new applications can be designed for cloud few existing workloads can move to cloud without some amount of recoding or reconfiguration which can be too expensive to justify. Companies with an already heavily virtualized infrastructure will probably find it easier. Those with significant legacy systems (especially ones that are long-paid for and running happily) will find the lure of the cloud less compelling, at least for now.

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