Another reason not to cloud wash - real cloud services are maturing fast

If you are dismissing true cloud services, it is time to change that attitude, blogs James Staten.
Written by James Staten, Contributor

We know that enterprise infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals are under tremendous executive pressure to get to yes on cloud computing and that this can be an uncomfortable proposition. Understanding the security, maturity and return on investment from cloud services can be challenging and in many cases you might argue that you provide the same capabilities from your own data center. But there's no denying that enterprises are increasing their consumption of these services and that their value proposition is unique and compelling - if not to I&O directly.

Since cloud became a household word, vendors and enterprises alike have jumped to declare victory on cloud with services and infrastructure implementations that really don't deliver cloud value but have the same foundation - something we call "cloudwashing." This is a dangerous gambit as you claim legitimacy but don't activate the same economics, deliver the autonomy that cloud services offer to your internal users and aren't standardized or automated enough to deliver transformative agility. In other words you claim cloud but are achieving only incrementally better value.

Well we've said many times before that cloud computing services are not a threat to I&O but another tool in your arsenal for delivering technology advantage to your company. But like any tool, it's worthless without proper training and experience. And too many enterprise I&O professionals are quick to dismiss true cloud services. It's time to change that attitude because, as our latest Tech Radar shows, the clouds are maturing at a rapid rate.

In the last two years since our first Tech Radar of Cloud Computing, we have seen significant improvement in the stability, transparency and feature sets of the leading cloud services solutions. And this has driven most of the cloud services segments out of the initial creation stage. Forrester Tech Radars plot technology categories along three variables:

  • Technology maturity - Has a technology reached a point of sustained legitimacy. Are enough customers using it, are the base capabilities well enough understood and has the business model proven itself. The Creation phase aligns to the concepts presented in Geoffrey Moore's book Crossing the Chasm where he described unproven technologies that may or may not prove to have staying power and lasting value.
  • Expected return on investment - We look at the maturity of a technology and the presence of best practices around its use that validate the model and provide clear cost differences from traditional alternatives. Technologies in the Creation phase tend to have a negative ROI as companies who use them are blazing new trails in using the technology and should expect to spend more in learning how to use the technology. You only want to invest in technologies in the Creation phase if you believe they deliver strategic or differentiating value.
  • Relevance across all enterprise types -- how widely can the value of this technology be applied. Does the technology provide a niche or incremental value or does it dramatically improve the efficiency or value versus similar technologies across a wide swath of use cases and market segments.

In 2009, a majority of cloud computing services sat in the Creation phase making them risky bets for I&O investments. Today, only two cloud services categories remain there. All the rest have proven their staying power. Not all have wide applicability but nearly all, when used correctly, can deliver outsized gains and financial advantage.

The key is in knowing how to use them correctly. And you can't learn this by dismissing them as immature and instead cloudwashing business as usual and hoping you can evolve the status quo to deliver commiserate value. You don't have the time and your company won't wait.

Our analysis proves that it is time to start embracing these technologies and your first steps should be to:

  1. Learn how your company is already using cloud computing. Not so you can stop it or take it over, but so you can learn the value and how I&O can contribute and assist. Engage the empowered developers and business leaders who you know are driving this adoption.
  2. Get your hands dirty. If you aren't deploying services to the cloud and analyzing what they do to protect workloads, you can't begin to advise your company on where they fit best - and where they don't. Pontificating about this without experience will quickly lead to a loss of your credibility.
  3. Incorporate the cloud into your portfolio. Through experience and Forrester's Strategic Rightsourcing methodology, you will learn where cloud services add value and where they don't. This knowledge can help you guide your company through cloud use best practices, define and clarify the role I&O plays in the use of cloud services and help you realize true agility and cost savings that may only be hoped for through the status quo.

Where should you start? Use our Tech Radar to learn what cloud services are truly ready for your company's consumption and engage the vendors who truly meet the cloud computing definition and deliver transformative economics.

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