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One thing stands out in many of the cloud computing conferences this spring: There's a big disconnect between the idea of cloud that vendors push and what the average enterprise is actually doing.
We've all seen this firsthand over the last several years. Cloud service providers actively paint a vision of mass migration to the cloud -- throwing around the words "elasticity" and "on-demand" as many as 20 times in any given conversation. But enterprises seem to be on a different planet, dealing with daily operational issues and budget limitations. Some enterprises see cloud as more of a distraction than a fix. So what's causing this disconnect -- and will the vendor and IT cloud dots ever connect?
This disconnect is easily explained. First, cloud providers accept the myth that hype equals reality. When you tell a story over and over, you have a tendency to believe it's true.
Second, enterprise IT typically moves at a slow pace. It takes months to ramp up a strategy, more time to ramp up an initial project and even more time to ramp up the first instances of a true cloud deployment. Thus, latency extends the wait for cloud out to years.
Finally, the technology industry -- companies such as Netflix and Zynga -- are using cloud. However, typical enterprises don't make up the majority of cloud businesses. Just because Netflix is able to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) does not mean a tire manufacturer in Ohio will have the same degree of success with its public cloud project.
Cloud vendors: Know your consumer
If you're a cloud provider, perhaps it's time to think differently about who's in your market.
The cloud industry actually needs to address the disconnect between service providers and enterprise IT to cross over from a new, untested technology to something that's proven and accepted. The best path is to have cloud providers address the specific needs of the rank-and-file enterprises. Vendors should also come clean about what their technologies can and can't do.
So, to the cloud providers out there, I offer some advice. Invest in creating proper paths to your technology and provide enterprises with the ability to map a clear path from where they are to where they need to be -- and all steps in between. This also means admitting that, for certain types of problems, you're not a good fit. And, don't be afraid to suggest other technologies that would work to create a complete solution.
For those in enterprise IT, you'll need to become more knowledgeable about cloud computing and its potential value and fit. Spend money and time on training and research; do a small pilot project to get a foothold. And avoid the vendor hype. Make sure you get to the essence of what cloud computing can do for you, not the latest cloud computing news.
So, will this disconnect between what the vendor wants us to believe about cloud and what the enterprise believes about cloud ever go away? I suspect the gap will narrow over the years, as the hype behind cloud computing diminishes over time. And, enterprises will eventually become savvier around the true value of cloud computing, which will come from actual use of the technology. This includes major failures and major successes.
If you're a cloud provider, perhaps it's time to think differently about who's in your market. It's not a fellow Silicon Valley-based technology company; it's a poorly funded IT shop with low-tech needs in a business that's not necessarily technology-driven (i.e., manufacturing, health care, finance, etc.). Sorry if those businesses aren't as sexy, but that's where the majority of the market exists.
About the author
David "Dave" S. Linthicum is with Cloud Technology Partners and an internationally recognized cloud industry expert and thought leader. He is the author and co-author of 13 books on computing, including the best-selling Enterprise Application Integration. Linthicum keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, enterprise application integration and enterprise architecture.
His latest book is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. His industry experience includes tenures as chief technology officer and CEO of several successful software companies and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.