At the third IT Priorities Roundtable discussion, held in Sydney last week, panellists agreed that there is still much confusion over this thing called the cloud.
"There is still a lot of vagueness around what people mean when they say the cloud. It is very easy to get into the habit of saying, cloud, cloud, cloud, regardless of what you are talking about," said James Turner, advisor at IBRS.
Jens Butler, an analyst at Ovum agreed, "There is a lot of noise, there is a lot of discussion ... there is still a little bit of confusion."
This isn't a surprise, according to Paul Julian, MD of Oxygen Networks, who believes the cloud will provide something for almost everyone.
"Some people are going to use it for everything, some people are going to use it for particular applications, more web-based applications, and other people are going to look at the technology and say, 'Yep, it's pretty good but it doesn't fit our model at the moment'," said Julian.
One thing panellists agreed on was that the cloud is what you want it to be, but then looked at which applications would be best suited to the cloud? Email? CRM?
One of the biggest obstacles faced by CIOs when considering a move to the cloud are legacy applications that would need significant modification or, more likely, a complete rewrite, according to Tim Dickinson, MD of Kaseya Australia.
"If you take a client/server application, you put a pretty interface on it and call it a cloud solution, it doesn't deliver. You have to have low levels of latency, you have got to have a quick application, you have to be able to access data and run the application very fast ... for that you really have to have a ground-up build of the code," said Dickinson.
It must be tempting for CIOs to rush into the cloud because they want to be doing something ... anything, to not get left behind. However, according to the panel members, that is most likely the worst thing to do.
IT departments tend to have a bad reputation for projects being over budget and not delivering what was promised.
IBRS's Turner shared a conversation he had recently had with one of his friends, that revealed the extent to which IT departments are distrusted.
"He was talking about a technology solution they wanted to roll out to help them plan some resources more effectively and I asked, 'So what is IT doing?' He said, 'I'm not giving this to IT'. He was completely dismissive, 'We are not going to trust them with this, this actually needs to work, this is important for the business'," Turner related to the panellists.
Rob Mills, VP of Sales at Information Builders, also made the roundtable participants laugh with his observation on attitudes toward IT departments.
"As an industry we are almost ADD ... We haven't finished doing the last thing before we start the next thing. From an information management perspective this makes it very, very difficult to actually deliver the next generation of change," he said.
But not all verticals share the same weaknesses, said Turner.
"You have got organisations at one end, particularly in the banking industry. These are people that understand finances, accountability and budgets very, very well. So when it comes to being held to account on what they are spending and delivering in IT services, they are very mature.
"At the other end you have organisations that don't have that same capability and, of course, there is everybody in between," added Turner.
It's impossible to keep all your hardware, software and infrastructure up-to-date with the latest developments in IT. And cloud computing (however you define it) is the latest topic for discussion. The message from the Sydney Rountdable panellists seems to be around ensuring that you know your systems, understand your business needs and create solid plans for implementing new projects that will provide measurable benefits to the company.