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James Stanbridge, Vice President, IaaS Product Management at Oracle
With cloud adoption soaring and users reporting significant benefits, it feels like the once-heated debates about the enterprise-wide suitability of cloud are finally done and won.
But this is all the more reason why we should now be wary of complacency or falling into habits with our adoption of cloud which could reignite questions about the value it provides.
In particular we need to be careful not to repeat mistakes of the past, or approach cloud with attitudes and behaviours shaped and engrained into company culture by generations of on-premise IT use.
To get the greatest benefit from cloud, businesses need fresh thinking and a fresh approach. They need to challenge and evolve their culture, decision-making hierarchies and business models.
One example of how habits of the past could influence the perception of cloud success is with the assessment of need. In an on-premise world, a mind-set existed in some quarters of ‘better to be looking at it, than looking for it’. Companies would buy more than they needed because it felt easier that way. It was easier from a budgeting perspective to get it all signed off at ease and easier from an integration perspective to do the work in one go. But this resulted in costly redundancy and unnecessary spend.
Some of these behaviours are being repeated unnecessarily in the cloud era, with companies signing up for usage levels that at best represent the very high end of occasional need. One of the great benefits of cloud, from infrastructure to applications, is the ability to pay only for what you really need when you need it, but the planning and assessment to achieve such efficiency is often not being done. Again, businesses are erring on the side of what they might, conceivably need and as a result paying over the odds, rather than mapping spend more rigorously to changing need over time.
Other legacy behaviours include an iterative, piecemeal approach to cloud deployment that mirrors the way some businesses bolted on new technology, to legacy systems, or rolled them out in silos, in spite of legacy systems. For many this as a result of the reliance upon that legacy and its inherent inflexibility. Tactical workarounds were sometimes unavoidable but they dragged businesses further away from a coherent, overarching strategy. Many are still trying to unpick the complexity, while others are repeating the behaviour with tactical cloud deployments that are not part of a coherent enterprise-wide cloud strategy.
However, not everything we learned or came to rely upon in the days of large, complex on-premise IT deployments should be thrown out or disregarded. One area where cloud adopters can learn from the past is from working with third party consultants and systems integrators.
Cloud has tended to be sold on the promise of simplicity; the claim that anybody with a credit card and an internet connection can be up and running in seconds. It is undoubtedly simple to subscribe to standalone apps, or to rent some processing power in the cloud. But such tactical activities get nobody any closer to the overarching, scalable cloud strategy they should be aspiring to. That takes planning and external perspective can be vital, not least in overcoming the skills gap some businesses encounter when trying to project manage a large scale migration to the cloud.
Cloud can undoubtedly be far simpler, easier to integrate and quicker to deploy but that should not encourage businesses to rush. There is no substitute for a clear plan. Sometimes pause for thought was inescapable in the on-premise world because projects had a tendency to drag on. But businesses are all on a journey to the cloud and they need to manage that journey with some caution and clarity of thought. Cloud offers an opportunity for businesses to extricate themselves from complexity but to do so they will need to pause, prioritise and plan their journey to a cloud-based future for their business.