Rackspace: Biggest cloud risk for CIOs is being blind to potential

The biggest risk "by far" for IT leaders is being shortsighted and entrenched in status quo over cloud adoption, who will then get caught out by rivals, says Rackspace's Asia-Pacific CTO.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Many CIOs might believe that the biggest risks related to cloud computing might be leakages and outages, but that is hardly near the top of the list of what should be keeping them up at night.

Alan Perkins, chief technology officer of Asia-Pacific at Rackspace.

"I'm not saying those aren't risks, but the biggest risk by far is the CEO coming to them and saying 'hey why don't we have what they have', because this young startup or their competitors have got on top of their game and realised the benefit," said Alan Perkins, Rackspace's chief technology officer of Asia-Pacific, during a media briefing.

Drawing a parallel to the era of cloud computing and the introduction of utility power, he pointed out industrialists back then would have first viewed electricity as a cleaner and more convenient form of energy. "I'll bet you, the first thing they wouldn't have thought of is 'wow this gives me lighting, what can I do with lighting?' That's a game changer but they wouldn't have seen it initially."

CIOs will need to challenge themselves by constantly asking what they were not seeing today that might be made possible with the technology, noted Perkins, who is also Rackspace's director of technology and products for Asia-Pacific.
Perkins noted a shortsighted mentality was still present even among senior IT leaders, based on a recent conversation a year ago with two of them he had recently over risk management. The discussion had largely touched on endogenous risks--the risk of internally generated information being leaked out.
When asked about their views on exogenous risks, including information being generated in the public such as on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, he said the IT leaders did not appear to be seeing the big picture. "The response from these two very senior large organization CIOs was 'we don’t let our staff have access to Twitter or Facebook', and I felt like smashing my head against the table. That's the kind of thinking that is going to stop cloud adoption."

"What you're going to see are island cases that are kinda lukewarm in their success, and that lack of true success is going to stop people from going all in."
Alan Perkins,
CTO for Asia-Pacific, Rackspace

Another barrier to cloud adoption, he observed was "ironic" and came in the form of disinformation. This was the notion held by marketers, financiers and human resources people and etc that cloud was the solution to the IT department, Perkins explained. "By that I mean IT is a roadblock let's get them out of the way, let's embrace cloud computing because we can go directly to the end game without the help of those 'mongrels' who keep saying we can't do anything."

He noted that while that convenience was an advantage, it poses a problem because IT staff are the best people who will know how to best optimize current systems with new ones. "What you're going to see are island cases that are kinda lukewarm in their success, and that lack of true success is going to stop people from going all in."

Another issue is the lack of skills, where the new role of data scientists appear to have become the "official unicorn", said Perkins.

He pointed out DevOps, and the lack of resources around it would also play a big part in holding back adoption. DevOps is the melding of developers and operations in order for both sides to work more closely and effectively together. This balances the developers' goal of innovation and the operations' goal of preventing downtime. This will typically require more skilled staff such as an operations team responsible for the infrastructure management to become more able to and capable of writing code.

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