Cloud adoption: Why some IT chiefs think it's still too complex

Cloud adoption: Why some IT chiefs think it's still too complex

Summary: The cloud may have jumped forward over the past few years but that doesn't mean managing these services has got any simpler.


The cloud may have many benefits but for the moment simplicity is not necessarily one of them.

From contracts, to licensing and payments, CIOs — even enthusiastic adopters of the utility model — remain pragmatic about the management of cloud services and their potential to cause grief.

"The complexities we get into on licensing models make me want to weep sometimes," Essex County Council CIO David Wilde told the recent Cloud World Forum in London.

"The market has still got a long, long way to go to commoditise its own products sets, make more sense of its licensing, get over the fact that actually in future — and cloud is driving this — it will no longer be about a corporate-based licensing," he said.

His organisation delivers services for at least half a dozen other public agencies but cloud licences currently make it difficult to set up such arrangements.

"And I don't understand why: it's all public sector and it's bodies, and I can count them up. Does it matter whether it's us or somebody employed in Basildon Hospital?" Wilde said.

He said in a number of ways the cloud already offers many of the right features but issues remain that need to be worked through.

"I've quadrupled the size of my technical design authority — my CTO function — because while it's there, it's complicated. Cloud does not simplify; it complicates," Wilde said.

However, despite those complications, the benefits that can be achieved at enterprise level make the effort worthwhile.

"We're investing heavily in technical design architects and we're investing less in programmers because what we're looking to do is to understand fully the complexity of those landscapes so that we can maximise their use," Wilde said.

Hillingdon Council CIO Steve Palmer said his organisation had gone through the first phase of cloud adoption in mid-2012 with a migration from Novell GroupWise to Google cloud-based email and calendar and some pilots with Google Docs.

The licensing for that part of Palmer's technology portfolio took 15 minutes because of the simplicity of the process.

"It's one thing for one set of licences covering absolutely everything. There are no interdependencies with other products or whatever else," Palmer said.

"There's a real lesson for the industry here. If you really want to engage us, be more flexible and clear with your licensing models, which are designed sometimes to make it impenetrable to the point of impossibility."

With the traditional licensing model, Palmer had to employ at least one person — and probably nearer one and a half — who had a licensing specialism, to make sure his organisation stayed on the right side of the law.

"Multiply that by 400 in the British Isles [the number of UK local authorities], it's an awful lot of money. I'd sooner spend that on frontline services and supporting elderly people who need care than having licensing experts," Palmer said.

Paul Boyns, head of infrastructure strategy and architecture at the BBC, said the added overhead that comes with cloud services is also often partly attributable to the number of providers involved.

"You've got to deal with probably more vendors. That means more contract management. There's the service management of more vendors than you might already have been dealing with," Boyns said.

"And actually different cloud vendors can have billing mechanisms that are quite different from each other. So, how can we simplify that? There are organisations out there that can help with that."

He said the BBC is not necessarily going to use cloud brokerages itself but all the options need to be investigated to simplify cloud arrangements.

"It's trying to work out, 'Well, if these are value-adds that are going to make life easier for the business leaders, then how do we start to present those to those business leaders?', again with a view of making the right thing easier to do," Boyns said.

When Hillingdon Council CIO Steve Palmer decided that the cloud offered some of the answers to the problems of an aging and unsustainable IT infrastructure, he was pragmatic about the then state of the technology and frameworks on offer.

"We had a belief that the cloud was just about ready — but in some areas only," Palmer said. "[It was] not as fully developed as we would like to see it and I think that's still the case today."

More on the cloud

Topics: Cloud, CXO, Enterprise Software, EU

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  • The Cloud

    I wouldn't go near the "cloud" with anything more valuable than my land-line number and, in my opinion, no business should go near it with an valuable data... at all.

    If we haven't learned anything about hackers and thei ability to hack, well, I guess that we never will.
    • Consistent Quality

      For companies under $10 million a year the quality of systems administrators varies considerably. Especially in $2 or $3 million dollar sized companies. Pushing things to the cloud for these size companies provides a consistent quality for many, many functions. I have fixed several real messes this way. It also gives them a mobility they never imagined before. Also these companies are so small the hackers do not care about them and most have really nothing to hide.

      I am not sure $10 million is a good threshold it may be higher or lower. Looking at the agreements for larger companies makes me shudder but for small ones it is fairly simple. I expect over time this threshold will grow.
      • You Are Talking About the Money

        I think the poster was talking about data security and privacy. If U.S. federal law prohibits you from putting certain kinds of data on some of these public cloud services, than you just can't do it. More important is that you, the consumer, do not get a choice as to where your data (yes, the data belongs to the consumer and not the company servicing the consumer) is stored. We know that some public cloud providers read each and every document that is uploaded (including mail) by scanning and/or employees (without background checks). So, could your credit card numbers be stored this way? yes. How about your medical information (HIPAA)? yes. It is only by federal mandate that we can be protected, as consumers) by laws.
  • If it's in the Cloud, it's free game to the U.S. Government

    If you don't have any problem with the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DOD snooping on all your files, or modifying them as they desire, go right ahead and put your information sytems in the Cloud. That's not even going into China and various eastern European organizations digging around in your data.
    • Feds

      I'd rather the feds have access to my data than public cloud providers who claim they can do anything they want with my uploads, including public display and having the documents being given to "third-parties". Maybe the feds can see my information and point and laugh, but to have my information given to advertisers or to be viewed by unknown employees in some foreign country?
  • Too broad

    While this article presents some interesting points-of-view (regarding licensing), the specifics are limited and the concept itself is too broad. Reading the heading, I considered basically cloud storage - and I can't determine the real problem as it relates to the article. I definitely have issues finding the right/best cloud storage option, but this article doesn't touch on those. It sounds as if the contributors are referring to SAAS or cloud Networks, but it doesn't clarify that. If it is referring simply to storage, then the multiple vendors and internal entities doesn't really apply to us or most companies I know. If it is referring to other types of cloud services, it needs to specify which.

    I read an article on cloud networks recently and found it interesting as a service I hadn't considered. Basically do away with your internal network - beyond basic internet connectivity - and host out everything else. As someone who's been doing this a long time, I'd be very hesitant to do that, but the way things are changing and with some people's fear of the "IT" field, I can see where it can be appealing. Theoretically, if internet connectivity was the only real concern, you could save a lot of money paying for redundant internet services and hosting software, storage, and network connectivity itself elsewhere; especially if you have multiple/remote offices.

    Still, the article is too generalized to offer any other specific comments.
  • Too many questions

    I believe the "cloud" has to many questions and compatibility issues. You have security issues, but also you basically enter into a ecosystem which may or may not require you to change.
    I really do not use much in the cloud business wise. From a personal user I find cloud stuff OK for basics but really find services like Apple's, Google's and Microsoft's all leaving you to decide on one. I find them a bit frustrating and not complete on some devices and OS's.
  • From the article

    It sounds like his government has a case for a private cloud. I am in favour of the technical benefits of the cloud, but then you add in another player that has a profit motive. This can only lead to higher prices.
  • Is the world too complex to resolve?

    International law means the cloud is largely misguided. It will be driven back for the same reasons it was driven back the first time. Consequently I do see it settling into a subset of the market because it does fit just right for some IT Administrators. If it doesn't fit don't
    wear it.... The Cloud salesmen have gone off the deep end and we need to keep USA information in the USA and not be taken for fools.