What impact does the cloud have on your datacenter planning?

There's been a barrage of mainstream cloud solutions advertising. What impact is it having on your business planning
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

I've been asking this question a lot over the last year, primarily of IT folks in large SMB environments.  These are the guys who are working in smaller datacenters and are charged with planning for the future growth of their companies. Many of them are in industries that have continued to grow during the current economic crunch and are expecting to need to support a major increase in business as the economy recovers.

Almost to a man, they have been directed to consider options that allow them to outsource some of their datacenter services. From those that were willing to talk about it, their goal is to move services to the cloud that they can be comfortable with and refocus internal resources on the projects that allow the company to grow. Their traditional constraints haven't been as much budgetary as they were manpower; it was always easier for them to justify a purchase of software more than adding staff.

This means that many of them see the cloud as a potential big win for their business and their IT model. The problem they are dealing with now, however, harks back to earlier years of business computing; vaporware (insert obligatory joke about "clouds" and "vapor" here). But unlike the vaporware issues of the last century this time the marketing is going straight to the end-user, as well as the IT guy.

You can't watch a television program without seeing a commercial telling you that going to the cloud will solve your computing problems. Drive-time radio has commercials from cloud players touting its benefits. Even the main stream media news outlets run filler stories on cloud computing, especially if there is a big-dollar datacenter deal going down within a hundred miles.

What this has led to, my sources tell me, is that they are spending an incredible amount of time managing expectations. They have to explain, repeatedly, that the cloud market is still in the process of defining itself, and that it isn't business magic. Even for existing cloud applications that they feel comfortable will work, they need to explain to internal business managers that it isn't just a matter of turning on the tap; the applications have to be integrated with their existing workflow process and brought online gradually.

Despite the increased aggravation, my sources remain bullish on the potential of integrating cloud-based application into their datacenters (the two I hear most about are email, which has extremely mature solutions for external hosting) and server backup/disaster recovery (a lot of these guys are looking for ways to improve/implement DR and cloud solutions have been improving over the last few years).

But they almost all agree that while they will continue to consider and evaluate cloud solutions, they aren't, or haven't been, letting them impact there budgetary planning for 2011. Most have added to their budgets for resources to evaluate potential business solutions, and a few are planning email migrations, but for the most part their planning has been business as usual, with an experienced eye on what the cloud vendors are claiming.

Editorial standards