Tipping point: What's getting IT shops into cloud?

Many IT pros are teetering on the edge of making a cloud decision. With budget constraints and other hesitations, choosing the right time has become increasingly important.

Cloud computing is a solid trend by now, but that doesn't mean it's storming the gates of enterprises; basic truths still remain when effectively operating an IT shop.

I don't think we are ready to move our ERP to cloud yet.

Can Ersoz, IT manager at Yakult

Cloud services get billed as a solution to budgeting, software and management woes, but that's mostly guff when numbers are run. Buying a new server, storage or software versus renting it online, no matter how easy, often balances out or costs more after amortization kicks in.

So how do users get into the cloud? In a lot of respects, it can look just like the way IT professionals have always bought from vendors.

"I filled out a form on the Internet, I think?" said Can Ersoz, IT manager at health drinks maker Yakult. Then he watched demos, read literature and waited for the right time. Ersoz said he'd been watching cloud services develop for several years, and he finally decided last year to take the plunge in replacing his help desk system.

"I watched the demos and said, 'Not yet, not yet,'" he said. But when he started running into internal issues keeping his old system, Symantec Altiris, up and running, he had to take a more formal look at alternatives, including updating Symantec. This time, cloud won out, and he switched to RemedyForce, which runs on Salesforce.com and is used more or less on demand, month by month. Yakult also moved to Microsoft Online for email and collaboration.

"Email was dead easy to move," he said.

Ersoz said cloud services suit his global support needs (U.S., Japan and the Netherlands, where he is based), and he was pleasantly surprised by the features now available. It also makes him feel like he's got a grip on how to leverage cloud computing economically and safely. As other systems start to inevitably break down, he'll look at cloud solutions again, provided they are not incredibly critical.

"I don't think we are ready to move our ERP to cloud yet, for example," he said. "We'll still have our systems and data centers for that."

Dining chain ready to snack on cloud services
Even when it's the right fit, cloud comes in on top of systems already in place, other users said.

"We're pretty spread out, which is one reason we like a lot of the cloud services," said Kevin Verde, CIO of Jason's Deli. They are a casual dining chain with 235 locations, all of which are tied together with point of sale (POS) systems and communication and productivity software (email and so on) to the head offices.

Jason's Deli had been working from an in-house data management/business app development platform and homebrew communications for almost a decade when the scales finally tipped in favor of cloud, specifically Google Apps and Salesforce.com.

Email was dead easy to move.

Can Ersoz

Verde said it was clear the systems were creaky and labor intensive under growing demand. He added that the firm had been in the midst of a Salesforce.com rollout anyway, so there was an "in for a penny, in for a pound" feeling, but it was also the development of features over a period of time that equaled what he was able to do with his in-house stuff, without any development work from him.

Verde said that, after the decision was made, the rest of the process involved buying in outside help from Google consultants Cloud Sherpas for migration and then getting mostly out of the way. Verde said he's also used Amazon Web Services a fair bit for testing and development around the move, another minor cloud use case that he's sure will increase as he needs it.

"There isn't really a silver bullet reason; it's a complex equation," said Doug Toombs, research director at Tier1 Research on why companies pick up a cloud service. Toombs said that while the trend is definite, the motion is incremental. It'll probably never take over the entire enterprise IT shop, and given the dire budgetary constraints IT faces today, moving to a cloud service basically has to be an opportunistic decision.

Carl Brooks is the Senior Technology Writer at SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at cbrooks@techtarget.com.

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