Experts cut through the cloud computing confusion

silicon.com speakeasy: IT leaders debate the future of IT department and the cloud...

silicon.com speakeasy: IT leaders debate the future of IT department and the cloud...

Cloud computing

The first silicon.com speakeasy event heard what questions businesses should ask before moving to the cloudPhoto: Chris Beaumont/silicon.com

In just a few years, cloud computing has gone from an interesting concept to a serious priority for many CIOs. But the impact of what could be such a fundamental change in the way IT is delivered is still being understood.

That's why the first silicon.com speakeasy networking event gathered a panel of experts to cut through the fog of uncertainty and bust the myths surrounding cloud computing.

The event was entitled 'The cloud computing revolution - and how to survive it' and the panel included silicon.com editor Steve Ranger, World-Check CIO Stephen Potter, Hachette Filipacchi IT director Nicholas Bellenberg and John Noakes, technology strategist at Microsoft, who fielded questions from the audience.

The first rule when moving to the cloud, the audience at the event heard, is not to go in blind: businesses should be clear on what they want to achieve and possible stumbling blocks.

IT departments will shrink and their role will change, the panel said, as the move to accessing software hosted in third-party datacentres reduces the need for some types of tech staff inhouse. This shift means cloud computing could change the make-up and priorities of the IT department and the CIO.

But techies shouldn't despair: "I don't think about CRM anymore. I spend much more of my time thinking about IT that can drive business forward," Potter said.

In many ways, businesses should adopt this hands-off approach to IT. Bellenberg welcomed the prospect of a business being able to buy an entire system rather than having to buy a box of discs.

According to a show of hands, a significant proportion of the audience at the Microsoft-sponsored event said they were already using cloud services, and a number of them said they were using cloud computing for business-critical systems. But the biggest barrier to cloud adoption remained uncertainty over data security and reliability, prompting calls for a "cloud kitemark" - where cloud providers could be accredited as meeting guaranteed levels of service and security.

Until cloud computing shakes off these uncertainties, companies will continue to implement private clouds, the panel said.

However, private cloud is, according to Potter, merely a stepping stone for businesses on the way to having the confidence to adopt public cloud services.

Bellenberg said a crucial question to ask a cloud provider up front is, "How will they get your data out?"

Businesses should also question whether changing the way they pay for IT from capex to opex will deliver financial benefits, Potter said.

Of course, managing the shift to the cloud requires a steady nerve. The event also heard from Steve Radcliffe, leadership coach and author of Leadership Plain and Simple, who was on hand to advise on what makes a true leader.

silicon.com's next speakeasy event will focus on public sector IT and ask how it can become even more efficient and effective.

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