Forrester: The cloud is here to stay; What's your strategy?

It seems as if everyone in business is talking about the cloud and all the money that it can help save - and yet, plenty of CIOs are still struggling to sell their companies on the technology, even though cloud-based competitors are hitting the scene quickly.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

IT professionals have surely heard all the hype about cloud computing - notably, the cost savings - but may be having trouble convincing their companies to leap into the cloud. And so, the obvious solution, is to build a "private" cloud, right?

Maybe - but don't fool yourself into thinking that launching a private cloud will instantly save your company millions of dollars and prompt the rank-and-file employees to erect a statue in your likeness as a means of celebrating your smart decisions.

During a presentation at Forrester's IT Forum this morning, analyst James Staten talked at length about some of the pitfalls, as well as the rewards, that come from a cloud strategy. The private cloud looks attractive but Staten offered a reality checklist of where companies need to be to make the private cloud launch a success.

A company will need a standardized operating procedure, fully-automated deployment and management (to avoid human error) and self-service access for developers. It will also need each of its business divisions - finance, HR, engineering, etc - to be sharing the same infrastructure. Staten asked the attendees, through a show of hands, how many of them were positioned today to pull this trigger. From where I sat, I couldn't see any hands go up.

Those who aren't quite ready shouldn't feel bad about it. Only 5 percent of enterprises are there now - and getting there is no easy task. In fact, there are four evolutionary stages that it takes to get there, starting with an acclimation stage where users are getting used to and comfortable with online apps, working to convince leaders of the various business divisions to be guinea pigs. Beyond that, there's the rollout itself and then the optimization to fine-tune it. But how long does all of this take?

Years. Realistically, to get through the entire process, a CIO is looking at 5 years - but probably longer - to get to private cloud nirvana.

And yet, even when they get there, it won't be nirvana. Building a private cloud means not being able to scale the way a cloud provider is offering. It also means managing the hardware and infrastructure that comes with launching a private cloud - and being able to anticipate the true needs.

So that brings us back to the public cloud, right?

Yes and no. There's no reason that a CIO can't take start getting the company's toes wet with a hybrid approach - some data and processes stay tied to the company's infrastructure while others may do just fine on a public cloud. And that's what CIOs and their IT staffs should be doing now - playing around with cloud offerings, becoming accustomed to and comfortable with cloud apps.

As he closed his presentation, Staten offered a somber reality check by way of introducing a service called Animoto. That company is enabling everyday folks to take their own photos, music and storyboards to create compelling commercial-like videos. And they're doing all of it - 100 percent of it - in the cloud.

And they're not alone. A company like Animoto may not be a threat to your business - yet. But it's not the only one gaining momentum on a 100 percent cloud platform. Ignore them or dismiss them - and the cloud, for that matter - if you'd like. But this cloud momentum isn't slowing down.

How will your company do on the competitive battlefield when the others guys bring modern-day weapons and you show up with bows and arrows?

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