I often go through my old presentations from 2008 and earlier to review talks about the promise of cloud computing. Remember that since 1999 I have worked in one way or another in the cloud computing space and have seen many changes. Most changes take place in perception.
In the early days, cloud computing was seen as just another way to use an application. These applications (now called software as a service) covered tasks like salesforce management, accounting, inventory control, etc. Cloud wasn’t really seen as revolutionary as this way of using apps had existed in more primitive forms for decades.
What was new, however, was the ability to use remote resources such as storage, processing power, databases and the like – or rather, the ability to use bits and pieces of applications as needed. That was the real headline of cloud computing that led to its turning point around 2008. This date could be a bit earlier or later depending on how you determine the turning point.
We now have enough experience with all types of cloud computing to better appreciate where cloud computing has succeeded and where it has fallen short. From where we sit towards the end of 2022, here’s my take.
Three great successes of cloud computing
Security in the cloud is a big win. Security got better in the cloud than in traditional systems about five years ago, although most of us didn’t realize it. This is largely due to the amount of R&D dollars poured into cloud security to improve cloud security features. The downside is that most of this innovation money came from the security budgets of more traditional installations. Innovations for private data center systems continue to lag behind the vendors in all areas of development.
The cloud can successfully provide business agility. I always tell my clients that most companies have moved to the cloud for the perceived cost savings but stayed for the agility. The cloud offers companies the opportunity to transform IT on a dime, and companies moving quickly in today’s more innovative markets (like retail, healthcare, and finance) are finding that the speed at which cloud systems are changing can, is a real force multiplier for the business.
The cloud offers industrial-strength reliability. Most who pushed back on cloud computing argued that we were putting all our eggs in one basket, which could prove unreliable. That mostly never happened. Obviously there were outages and they usually made the 24-hour news cycle, but they were nowhere near the number or length the naysayers predicted. The pandemic was truly the first stress test for the major cloud providers, as many companies quickly migrated to the cloud to support remote workers and data centers that were no longer accessible. The cloud providers performed well with only a few major issues, thus proving to be reliable.
As you consider cloud computing, consider how these achievements could benefit your business. But read on first. It’s time to look at what went wrong.
Three Big Disappointments of Cloud Computing
Big mistake on the cost. In the early days, almost every vendor and emerging cloud professional was promoting the cloud as a cheaper (or much cheaper) alternative to traditional systems. The companies that switched to cloud computing expected significant cost savings. These savings never really materialized, except for entirely new businesses that had not previously invested in IT. In fact, most companies looked at their cloud bills in shock. The main culprit? Companies that have not used cloud finops programs to effectively manage cloud costs. Also, cloud providers offered pricing and terms that many companies didn’t understand (and many still don’t).
The large selection has a downside. The ability to consume thousands of cloud services from one cloud provider, and consume even more of them as you move to multicloud, has created over-complexity due to too much heterogeneity. This increases the cost of ownership and the chance of making some big mistakes. The complexity increases risk and costs, which severely hamper the cloud advancement that organizations want to achieve.
The rise of cloud computing exacerbated the skills crisis. We cannot blame the cloud providers for this problem. The rapid shift to the cloud has created a shortage of skilled workers that has left many organizations stuck until they have the required skills as employees. Many people are transitioning their careers to cloud computing or are entering the field for the first time, but demand for cloud-related skills continues to outstrip supply, with no relief in sight.
These are the main good and bad bullet points of cloud computing. For the most part, it was a good move and a solid evolution in how we approach technology. With any new technology, there are always pros and cons. If your business is just beginning its cloud journey, use this information to meet goals and avoid roadblocks. Those of you already on your cloud journey know what I’m talking about.
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