By Andy Marken
The more the IT (information technology) industry advances, the more it treads over old ground.
It wasn't quite back in Lady Lovelace's day, but there was a time when an IT manager's status in the organization was measured by the number of mainframes sitting in his/her data center.
It was power-, people-, budget-intensive.
Then came outsourcing with the siren song of saving money, reducing head count, being more flexible/responsive and saving money.
Sorta', kinda' worked for awhile, but the luster faded.
Things got tough because things got outta' control, costs rose and people had to be found/trained to manage the rogues.
So the hardware/software folks came up with the idea of giving everyone control over the power, processes and tools.
Desktop/portable computers were given to everyone.
After all, the devices were cheap ($1M-plus big iron vs. $3-5K small unit) and software/apps cost nearly nothing.
What could go wrong?
Isaac Sachs added, "You are going to be sorry in ways you cannot even imagine."
Costs rose, support/training/guides had to be found, things were outta' control.
Now the Cloud
But nirvana has arrived – public/private clouds – we'll save money, reduce head count and be more flexible.
Cloud Pieces – You may think of the Cloud as one nice fluffy thing, but it's actually made up of a lot of parts (something like a giant data center) that all have to work together smoothly to handle an enterprise's workload/workflow while working hard to protect the content from inside and outside attacks. The bigger the cloud, the bigger, more frequent, more aggressive the attacks.
It still looks/feels like outsourcing and things are already getting outta' control.
Now we have PaaS (platform as a service), SaaS (software as a service and/or storage as a service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). You name it; we have an aaS for you.
Packages Fade – As company's shift to the anywhere/anytime use of the Cloud, software is rapidly being transformed to something the IT organization manages and controls for system and mobile apps that are serviced/supported/managed/controlled by the cloud service provider.
The challenge for companies today is to maintain control of the wide-ranging opportunities and siloed usage in the cloud.
Departments, work groups and individuals are taking advantage of low-cost, easy-to-use public cloud services. Few (very few) think about how the use of "their" cloud service will impact/expose the company as long as they can get their work done and meet their objectives.
Cloud computing definitions are still a work-in-progress and depend on what you're offering, what you're looking for.
The one thing most agree on though is you can store, manipulate, retrieve and share information from nearly anywhere via the iNet.
And ... now that everyone in the organization is using his/her own device – smartphone, tablet, laptop – ignoring or not using the cloud isn't an option!
We all use the cloud to send email, video conference, print from mobile devices, store personal/work-in-progress/collaborative data, exchange medical information, bank, share on social networks and more.
While IT executives are cautious with the cloud products/services, businesses are the biggest adaptors.
They agreed with Isaac Sachs, "Yesterday, I believed that I would never have done what I did today."
Public sector organizations are being forced to the cloud because getting great people that are affordable is difficult to do.
Gartner predicts that the worldwide revenue from public clouds (shared usage) will soar from $105.7 billion in 2013 to $206.6 billion in 2016.
Software sales (O.K., licensing) are decreasing significantly.
Different Appeals – While enterprise managers are attracted to the promise of cost savings, a more agile and efficient organization; IT management struggle s with controlling/managing costs and more importantly, vital corporate information, which is more vulnerable to internal/external attack and loss in the Cloud.
Eighty percent of large firms have, are planning or executing programs to use the cloud for critical applications.
Executives predict that 70 to 75 percent of their applications will be hosted in cloud environments that will enable savings of 30 to 40 percent compared with current platforms.
Whether they (you) believe it or not, most say the cloud can make their entire organization more agile and responsive. But that doesn't mean they're sleeping well at night with the prospects or decision to move to the cloud.
Earlier this year, a CIO report said 43 percent of the folks had lost data in the cloud and 75 percent felt they would lose data because of a cyber attack.
Cloudy Dangers – IT management sees the benefits and opportunities of operating in the Cloud but they are also aware of a wide array of unanswered questions and challenges in moving their organization to Cloud services.
Intel's survey of IT pros showed 46 percent had suffered from a security breach in the cloud-- significantly more breaches than in their own data centers.
With the growing possibility (probability) of government agencies monitoring/mining cloud data, most IT pros really don't see a friendly cloud unless they practice in-depth encryption or private cloud implementation.
Most company executives mistakenly believe that the cloud provider will take care of keeping the bad guys/gals at bay.
Cloud folks provide a decent array of security options. They talk a lot about their security and offer customers experienced advice; but read the fine print of the contract and they have more escape clauses than a screen door.
Cloud services like globe-girding AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google, Microsoft, IBM and hundreds of others are getting better at responding to and handling cyber attacks, but still ... stuff will get lost.
Or, as Haskell Moore said, "There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well."
Still, there's very little to stop the rush to the public cloud.
Executives look skyward and scan the horizons and see fewer reasons to invest time, money, effort in building out and maintaining their own infrastructure and data center when the service ecosystem just gets richer and richer.
At Salesforce's Dreamforce, CEO Marc Benioff unveiled what he said was a solution ecosystem that companies won't outgrow and will only get better and better with each new app they add to their arsenal.
iNet of Things
While they won't step on Cisco's 50 billion device–and counting–Internet of Things, Salesforce has certainly reimaged itself to play heavily in the cloud and all its activities.
Endless Circle – With the increasing ability to capture data/information from more things, organizations accumulate more and more data that can be useful to the organization. Commitment to the cloud allows IT management to quickly add or reduce infrastructure and storage. However, it is becoming increasingly complex as data/content is accumulated, moved and used throughout the organization.
Amazon may have the track record for day-to-day customer experience and support, but Salesforce has a broader view of CRM (customer relations management).
Companies are going to need both views to survive the future.
That's probably why Salesforce repositioned itself from being a packaged solution to a working platform provider.
It's an interesting shift that offers industry-specific apps as well as broader mobile apps/services that can be used to meet a customer's marketing, sales, service and support needs and more.
Whether the approach makes a company's data any more available or any more secure depends on how quickly, easily, seamlessly everything everywhere can be changed.
And at what cost.
As Isaac Sachs said, "Belief is a force to be understood as we understand the Theory of Relativity and Principles of Uncertainty."
Time will tell.