Elasticity, lower cost, enhanced performance and improved reliability are the typical bunch of catch phrases that get bandied about when vendors try to sell the world on the revolutionary benefits of cloud computing. But there are many compelling reasons why enterprise clients hit the brakes when it actually comes to moving forward with a cloud-based solution, as the benefits of cloud computing naturally come with a cost. The biggest cost? For many enterprise professionals the biggest cost to be calculated is associated with the lack of control the IT department ends up having over their cloud-based environment of choice.
Dealing with cloud-control issues
“Are you ready for the public cloud?” Asks Daryl C. Plummer, Managing Vice President, Chief of Research and Chief Gartner Fellow. “Are you ready to put everything out there and to deal with all of the trust that it entails to go with these providers? Are you ready to go with these cloud providers who are going to do all the work? Are you ready to give up the control?”
These are the questions enterprise professionals are asking themselves when they start seriously thinking about adopting a cloud based solution. “For most enterprise organizations the answer is no. They are not ready to give up control; but they are ready to move forward in some coordinated way.” But how do companies move forward when cloud-control issues haunt their risk adverse mindsets?
Testing the waters with IaaS
An Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) play is often a good start. With IaaS, a service provider hosts the basic equipment needed to support operations. Components such as storage, hardware, servers and networking components typically fall into this category. Sometimes referred to as Hardware as a Service, IaaS allows enterprise customers to keep a large degree of control over their environment. For example, when installing application servers or database software, tasks as simple as deciding which folder to install into, or which port to run various protocols on will still be performed by the client. Compare this to a Software as a Service play where the client has essentially no control over the configuration of the environment. With SaaS solutions, these types of operations are handled exclusively by the vendor.
Market differentiation with IaaS Plus
Interestingly though, in an effort to differentiate themselves from their competitors, many IaaS vendors are sending a mixed message to the market. Many IaaS providers are integrating themselves with software packages that can be installed in their environment with nothing more than a click of the button.
“We’re seeing something emerge from the bottom up. We’re seeing something called IaaS Plus.” Says Daryl about this emerging trend. “Vendors are adding more capabilities on top of their infrastructure. They’re adding app servers, database management systems, integrated middleware, portal technology and BMP.”
But is this IaaS Plus trend a bad thing? Not necessarily, but if consumers are using these IaaS Plus offerings when they really should be looking at a Software as a Service solution, they’re doing themselves a disservice. In fact, they might even be setting themselves up for a fall.
Wrestling back control
With IaaS Plus, containers still need to be configured, JVMs still need to be provisioned, and port conflicts still need to be dealt with, all of which are things that SaaS providers do for you, and they do them in a consistent, optimized and highly efficient manner. That’s the whole point of going with a SaaS solution: all of the tricky configuration and optimization stuff is done beyond the fingertips of the client, and as a result, is no longer a client concern.
With IaaS Plus offerings, clients do have control over the software, and they can get in there and start tinkering with their software products in a destructive way. SaaS providers earn their salt by optimizing their offerings for efficiency, performance and reliability. With a fake SaaS offering, clients can still get in there and make insipid configuration choices that cripple performance and put the reliability of their software at risk. In essence, clients can make the exact same mistakes on the cloud that they made with their on-premise solution, which largely defeats many of the key benefits of going with the cloud in the first place.
Waiting for the pink slip
“IaaS Plus forces you to take more responsibility for running all of this yourself.” Says Daryl. “It may be the right way to go because you get more control. But it might be the wrong way because you may end up doing exactly what you used to do on premises, but you do it in the cloud. That’s a bad move. If you go to the cloud and you just reproduce what you were doing 'on-prem,' you’re just waiting for the pink slip to come under your door.”
The benefits of moving towards the cloud are well documented, but like any disruptive change in the enterprise, organizations need to chart a path for adoption that mitigates downside risk while optimizing the upside benefits, and more often than not, the downside is the diminished control clients end up having over their vendor provided environment. But in the end, clients must accept the surrendering of a certain amount of control over their environment as a necessary concession, and not try to look for solutions that allow them to wrestle back the control they bartered off in exchange for cost benefits and improved performance and efficiency. In the end, this type of counter effort can result in recreating the problems of an on-premise solution in the cloud, resulting in a solution that delivers the worst of both worlds, and not the best.