Anytime something changes from one to multiple dimensions, perspectives and self-serving agendas, it becomes more difficult and confusing. That’s the case with cloud computing. The cloud is basically providing us with new ways of conducting our business and personal lives. But if you ask 10 different cloud vendors to define the cloud, you’re likely to get 10 different definitions. This has led to a lot of myths around cloud computing as well as differing advice about moving to the cloud.
The cloud is bringing multiple complex dimensions together, as it is slowly but surely becoming the de facto way of doing business. It involves multiple infrastructure components (virtualized data centers, borderless networks and unified communications-driven thinner than ever end-user environments and architectures); multiple dimensions (security, business intelligence, business processes, workflows, service level agreements for business continuity, etc.); multiple players and agendas (IT vendors, telcos, service providers, media companies and, even the government itself); and various methodologies.
Wyse has been involved in early stages of what we now call cloud computing for the past 30 years, getting data and content from a mainframe into a dumb terminal device; all content and data were in a server/database somewhere else, which the end user never directly managed or touched. But in today’s new world, cloud dimensions have changed and become more complicated. Data flows are all over the place; what was once one dimensional is now data from any server or data store anywhere and within a personal, private or public network (or cloud), or within
a government or hybrid cloud.
To help enterprises, SMBs and consumers more easily leverage the advantages of cloud computing, let’s first look at the top cloud computing myths and the top trends around cloud computing. We will conclude with five recommendations for mitigating risks when migrating to the cloud.
Top five cloud computing myths
Myth #1: The cloud is not reliable, secure or private. This myth is based on the idea that if you don’t own the computer where your data resides, you should question its reliability and security. That’s absolutely correct. However, having said that, consumers have been doing business through the cloud for a long time. For instance, we pay for our car registration in our state’s government cloud; we access our financial data in a bank’s via the cloud; we purchase books and music from the cloud.
In reality, it’s a bigger risk to carry all your data in a PC than in the cloud because you can lose the PC. The concept “the secure PC” has been an oxymoron for years. In a cloud environment, at least there’s a third party that has some kind of service level agreement, licensing, and contract with you. If it’s managed well, cloud computing can be much more reliable, more secure, and much more private than any PC. The right cloud solution can be as secure, or more secure, than typical client-server implementations in house. There are aspects of our company and of our personal lives that we don’t and won’t move to a public cloud for some time. As much as possible, we will use private clouds for private matters. When we choose to use a public cloud, we first need to get very comfortable as to whether we can trust the entity with security, manageability, availability, reliability and scalability beyond simple economics and total cost of operations calculations.
As an example, at Wyse we use Salesforce.com to manage our relationship with our customers. Next to our employees, our customer information is our most valuable asset, and we rely on salesforce.com to manage the most important asset in our company. It’s a simple solution for us to use and maintain: it provides us with a lower cost and more manageable solution than buying, deploying and using a bunch of new servers, tools and applications in addition to very difficult to secure, manage and maintain fat PCs. But the main reason we selected the solution is because we know we can trust its security, reliability, availability and scalability delivered (and promised to be delivered) by the vendor, directly.
Myth #2: The cloud is really only for consumers and SMBs, not enterprises. While it’s true that a lot of cloud services start at the consumer or SMB level, increasingly larger enterprises are migrating to the cloud because of overall security, manageability, TCO and overall business continuity and disaster recovery benefits.
We have met with several enterprises in Japan after the recent earthquake and nuclear disasters. Many leading large enterprises and government agencies lost their servers and PCs with critical data stored in them. We saw the same thing in the U.S. with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many organizations are now rapidly moving to the cloud so they will have business continuity and recovery capabilities from other locations in case of a future disaster.
Myth #3: We’re virtual, so we’re already in the cloud. This belief is only partially true. Virtualization is not the only way to do cloud computing, while virtualization absolutely eases the transition to cloud computing because of its inherent architectural, operational and business benefits. Obviously, virtualization helps cut costs and makes some things more manageable. From data centers, to networks and end user environments, cloud computing architectures benefit from virtualization. It’s one very important ingredient of cloud computing, but it’s not all there is to the cloud.
Myth #4: Reducing total cost of ownership is the only reason to move to the cloud. Total cost of ownership is a very important benefit of cloud computing, but it’s not the only benefit. Greater security, manageability, reliability, scalability, availability, and very importantly faster deployment and business agility are bigger benefits of the cloud, while many argue these benefits all translate to better total cost of ownership and operation.
As Japanese businesses are moving to the cloud for business continuity, they will be able to move employees to a different building or location or have them work from home, and a virtualization-enabled cloud service can deliver the applications via the Internet. With cloud, it is much easier to have more availability at a lesser cost. In addition, the cloud can scale to masses, unlike any other one-to-one system.
Myth #5: SaaS = Internet = Cloud. This is the biggest myth in the cloud computing era. Cloud computing is not based solely on SaaS, unlike some SaaS vendors would love you to believe. SaaS is an important component of the cloud because it cuts cost and brings value through agility
and availability. But businesses worldwide are still using millions of Windows, mainframe/legacy applications, many of them are homegrown, some packaged; in addition fast-growing native applications on mobile devices.
SaaS is a Web-based infrastructure that provides access to some of those applications, but not all of them; especially in public sector and many brick-and-mortar private sector industries, Web applications are still in minority. Cloud requires more in the back end – more infrastructure optimization and transparent and virtual data centers through client integration. SaaS tackles a few of these points, in maybe 20-30 percent of those applications, but the rest still need to be dealt with via strong virtualization, networking and application integration techniques.
We think the next-generation cloud computing systems will be what we call “open cloud computing systems.” In this new era of cloud computing, regardless of the user, the content type, application, or the end-user device; users will reach the knowledge wherever the user or knowledge is; at home, at work or on the go. There is no single formula for achieving this optimized cloud computing system or what we call open cloud computing.
SaaS provides an important ingredient for the overall workflow in open cloud computing, but it doesn’t provide all of the ingredients for various use cases. SaaS will always be in the cloud in some shape or form, but we’ll also follow other methodologies and use other technologies to achieve the benefits of cloud computing.
Leading companies today are tackling these five myths and seeing the opportunities in the cloud.
Here are the top trends now taking hold.
Top five cloud computing trends
Trend #1: Personal clouds. Cloud deployments now include personal clouds. Businesses have several options for deploying cloud computing: public, private, government and hybrid clouds. Now there are also personal clouds. An example is the Wyse PocketCloud, a native app that runs on Google Android and the Apple iOS mobile platforms, which gives users access to their physical and virtual PCs without opening their data to a third party, while giving users an opportunity to create a virtually networked personal data center ecosystem without any additional cost or change – consisting of someone’s PCs at the office and/or home.
Bottom line – people are looking into all types of cloud deployments, and personal clouds in many ways will gain huge momentum due to security, privacy and contextual intelligence reasons.
Trend #2: Improved management, security and privacy. We are seeing heavy interest among businesses in how to manage the components of the cloud from the data center to the client (whether the client is a PC, tablet, phone, or thin client), regardless of where the data center or networking system might be. Improved management, security, privacy and policy management will be critically important. There is a huge wealth of opportunities for vendors to create management solutions to tackle these issues in an integrated infrastructure management framework – which does not only focus on networks, systems, apps, content or devices – but, also the users, as well – in any work environment.
Trend #3: Collaboration. In contrast to the past where IT vendors, telcos, service providers and content vendors competed against each other, this new era of cloud computing finds them coming together and collaborating to find the right solutions for customers. Cloud computing is bringing together a world of opportunities for many different stakeholders to collaborate – maybe the first time in our industry. This will create tons of opportunities for many players in our industry – and if our government can positively help with the right legislation framework, we will
hire more people faster to move our sluggish economy.
Trend #4: Shift in skills and size of IT. In the cloud computing era, IT organizations will shrink (anyone says it differently, is either blind or stretching the truth), as there will be fewer people in IT performing infrastructure management-centric operations. The good news is that IT staff will be doing more strategic and creative work. Simply put, companies will not need their own generators as they did in the 1920s.
In the past, IT has spent 80 percent of its time and costs just managing the infrastructure. Eighty percent of that 80 percent has been focused on all end-user services and fat PCs. Those days are over – watch the new business plans at HP! That’s a huge waste for companies. In the cloud, infrastructure and even data can be delivered as a service – we will move to smaller and smarter organizations with constantly innovating with CIOs transforming into Chief Innovation Officers from Chief Information Officers.
Trend #5: Shifting to thin infrastructures. Increasingly, we’re seeing people moving from fat and unsecure PCs to thin infrastructures. If everything is going to cloud – all the data resource, the storage, security and the content – why would a business still need huge, fat mainframe client called PCs? If everything critical is in the back end, why not move everything to the back end?
Cloud requires a much thinner infrastructure for end users, which is why the PC market is almost flat now and why companies like Apple, Google and Wyse are doing very well with their thinner, faster and cheaper solutions. Wyse is growing 100 percent year over year because of this trend, and it’s the same with the tablets and mobile smartphones.
Thin infrastructures are also a greener way to do business. The energy savings alone may pay off the devices in six months or less.
So, do not get fooled by too much hype! Here are some recommendations for you.
Top five cloud recommendations
Recommendation #1: Take a hybrid approach with an easy start. There is no one-size-fits-all way of doing cloud computing. And some enterprise applications and users may not be 100 percent ready for the cloud; but there are still ways to leverage the cloud’s advantages.
We believe companies should migrate to cloud computing using a hybrid approach and start in a KISS way (keep it simple and smart!), rather than going all in. Start with a department, maybe in IT itself to see the good, the bad and the ugly – maybe, a few applications and a few users. Start in a hybrid mode or a personal cloud before moving to the public cloud for certain applications and/or users. There are a lot of good vendors that can help companies deploy with this approach. Also, try to stay away from those vendors who are there for the short-term! Cloud is a new lifestyle – choose those who will stick by you in the long term.
Recommendation #2: Focus on policy-based management, security and intelligence. Cloud deployments should include a focus on managing the data center, managing the networks, managing the devices, managing the users, and on ensuring authentication, authorization and access control – and all in an integrated way. In addition, ensuring contextual intelligence (location-based services) is going to be hugely important for the cloud. Users will ask questions about how they will achieve the results of their searches or application delivery.
Recommendation #3: Using open-standard methodologies is essential. At Wyse, we see open standards as a critical aspect to success in cloud computing. You might deploy a public cloud solution for your organization today and two years later the company might be sold, hire new people with different perspectives on the cloud or even change its business model. All of a sudden, a public cloud might not be appropriate and you would need to bring the data back to a private cloud. Or you might go from cloud back to client-server methodology.
Because of those changes, standards become hugely important for easy and smooth transitions. If you don’t follow open standards now, you will have to change your infrastructure if you switch cloud solutions, and it will cost you a lot of money in the long run. We recommend that our customers make sure they use open-standard methodologies to ensure they can make changes to their infrastructure, data, workflow and business model. Stay away from vendors that are pushing you to “one-size fits all” and proprietary solutions!
We have seen and heard some horror stories of companies moving to public cloud for liability reasons then changing their business model and wanting to move back to private cloud mode; but they couldn’t because the public cloud service they used was not open standards based. They had to change everything and do new workflows and put a new system in, which was costly. Fortunately, they had started only at a departmental level.
Recommendation #4: Plan for a significant shift in skills and size of IT. Obviously, there will be a shift in skills in IT departments as companies migrate to the cloud. Our recommendation is to train your people and help them achieve that skill shift so that your organization can be much more successful as it moves forward.
Recommendation #5: Think about your users first. Cloud computing changes our lives in a big way, from the users to content to applications and policies. Wyse recommends that companies think about their users before they think about the data center, network, PCs or thin clients, infrastructure, software and hardware. Determine the answer to these questions:
- Who are the users (task workers, knowledge workers, mobile or super workers)?
- What kind of profile do they have?
- What kind of applications do they use?
- What kind of content types do they deal with (voice, data, video)?
- What kind of peer groups do they deal with?
- What kind of policies and business flows does your business have that affect the users?
- Where are the users (at home, in the office, on the go)?
As an example of the importance of these questions, a lot of companies now are moving their call center to work-at-home employees. This creates a different set of needs. The network will change, the data center will change, the applications will move and the devices will change.
It is hugely important to define the users, their needs, the content, applications and policies first. A lot of vendors will try to sell a bunch of hardware, software and services – things you may end up not needing for your users – ever. So our recommendation is to start your cloud migration by first defining your users’ needs, defining their profiles, and then choosing the right solutions from the right partners, who will stick with you in the long term.
As Hannibal said, “There is always a way! We will find the way! If there is no way, we will build the way!” In the cloud business, there is always a way. If you cannot find it through the hype; go ahead and build it in your own way – just make sure you choose the right partners along the way!
Tarkan Maner is President and CEO of Wyse Technology in San Jose, CA.