What we can learn from the early cloud adopters

Expectations may have been too high and knowledge scarce, but we have much to learn from the early adopters of cloud computing.

The misconception cloud is insufficiently secure has been an issue since the beginning and has yet to be entirely rectified by the industry. As such, it remains a key concern and a primary goal when organisations think about moving over to the cloud. Malware, data theft, data leakages; they all remain as top security challenges.

A recent report from Intel Security, entitled ‘Building Trust in a Cloud Sky’, showed organisations’ concerns about security and expertise, as well as a lack of resources, remains some of the most significant challenges for companies.

Yet it also revealed some additional echoes from the past, with issues faced by early adopters still having their part to play in today’s cloud market. Specifically, organisations are still facing shortages of in-house IT staff with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience of cloud technologies and security.

The issue is that many organisations have yet to fully realise their ambitions when it comes to the cloud, and there are some lessons that still have to be learnt, and certainly there are some improvements to make. 

However there are lessons in the past that are still relevant to companies today, particularly when plotting early roadmaps, and planning for achievable results. 

Too much talk, not enough caring

Michael Cares, director of service delivery and cloud services at TUI Infotec, began to plan for the cloud back in early 2009. He claimed the early adopters were disappointed by what the reality of cloud was beyond the marketing hype.

“Expectations were much higher than what was really delivered,” he explained to Virtual Clouds. This was caused by Virtual Cloudsviders not caring, in his view, about the business of the customer.

Cares said relinquishing control of your own assets was something of particular concern, but the early adopters at the time didn’t have the right level of maturity to support their own cloud.

The tools that were available at the time were also immature, but the focus was more on the cloud technology rather than on service delivery. Cares claimed cloud hardware and software vendors like HP, VMWare and IBM simply focused on delivering their technical capabilities in order to be cloud-ready, whilst they should have focused on the needs of their customers’ businesses.

However, it wasn’t all bad, as he claims that BMC Software, of which his organisation is a customer, had a different approach, driven by service delivery rather than technology.

Either way, Cares felt the need for a service level agreement was still very important to ensure IT services contribute to the performance of the customer’s business.

Happy in the cloud

However, Alan Williamson, chief architect of Mediafed, had an altogether different experience with early cloud adoption.

His company is a customer of Amazon and began using cloud technologies in 2007. Unlike Cares, Williamson said he has never been happier, although this doesn’t mean there wasn’t potentially a gap in expectations.

“In the early days the marketing departments got a little excited with the terms and as usual with new buzzwords, and so they may have over sold the capabilities of the cloud at times”, admitted Williamson.

Yet he said many of the new customers who had believed that hype soon realised “the cloud did not offer the same performance as their physical servers.” This was down to a certain amount of ignorance and uncertainty about virtualisation.

New customers made the mistake of thinking one virtual machine was going to equal the performance of their own servers.

“In our experience, you have to go for three cloud servers for each and every individual physical server”, said Williamson.

He then suggested a move to the cloud could not be done in one go as it requires the organisation to re-define its IT architecture, necessitating some re-engineering to make the cloud work to its full potential.

“You can’t treat the cloud like you would a physical set-up.”

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