Cloud Strategy for the Enterprise: A mesh of Ineffective Choices

As enterprises look to develop a cloud strategy — and particularly as they aim to create private clouds that meet the demanding needs of today’s business users — many find themselves in a sort of no-man’s land.

On the one hand, a lot of these organizations have committed to virtualization technology from companies such as VMware, with the idea being these products would eventually enable them to create their own private cloud.

Partly because of this mistaken belief that virtualization equates to or easily leads to cloud computing, companies continue to rely on a traditional virtualization approach to their IT infrastructures. Today you can find VMware installed at countless large enterprises.

On the other hand, a large number of users at these same organizations—such as developers who are looking to deliver releases as quickly as possible — have been moving workloads to public cloud services such as those offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Current Cloud Options Are Lacking

The problem is, neither of these situations helps enterprises to build a truly effective internal cloud strategy. While VMware has done an admirable job bringing virtualization technology to countless data centers, its success with moving customers to the cloud has been much more dubious.

The technology VMware offers does not provide the cloud platform functionality enterprises need today, such as self-service for end users, easily deployable and consumable services, and a high level of visibility and analytics for monitoring the IT environment.

Meanwhile, enterprise users who are eager to leverage the speed and agility of the cloud have moved workloads to AWS or other public cloud providers. This is especially true for software developers and those business users who want access to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

These users are cloud savvy, having leveraged a number of cloud-based services in their personal lives and accustomed to high service levels and rapid engagement.

This desire to jump into the cloud has helped create the “shadow IT” phenomenon that has plagued so many IT departments in recent years. Many business users and central IT — with its focus on a VMware-based infrastructure—are on different pages when it comes to a strategy toward building a digital enterprise.

Various efforts have sprung up in the market in an effort to help enterprises develop a mature cloud strategy, but these have been flawed. For example, the OpenStack open source platform for cloud computing began with much promise, but has seen key vendor support wane in recent months.

OpenStack consists of interrelated components that control multi-vendor pools of compute, storage, and networking within a data center. It’s designed to be a core technology stack for orchestration of compute resources, and bring Amazon-like experience to on-premise infrastructures.

Another option that has emerged is to move to a hyper-converged cloud, where storage, compute and networking are delivered as a stackable appliance.

This enables companies to acquire the stack and immediately begin providing a private cloud experience to users. This experience is superior to other cloud options available and it’s easy to deploy and use, but all of this comes at a cost.

For one thing, the technology is costly in terms of initial capital outlay and ongoing costs, and therefore out of the price range of many companies. But an even bigger concern is the vendor lock-in and closed community that’s inherent with hyper-converged appliances.

Once an enterprise selects a hyper-converged vendor, it’s stuck buying any needed expansion components from that same vendor at premium prices. And there is no broad ecosystem to help enhance the technology over time.

In general, efforts to help enterprises build their own private clouds as part of a hybrid environment have failed for a number of reasons. One is that clouds are really hard to install and grow. To do so using the current options requires people who are experts in cloud technology and management. Hyper-convergence addresses this challenge to a great extent, but virtualization does not.

Another reason for failure is the high costs often associated with these cloud efforts. As companies add more capacity, the infrastructure costs go up — which is actually counter-intuitive to what the cloud should be all about. This is especially true when enterprises try to add in disaster recovery (DR) components to their infrastructure.

Yet another drawback of these cloud options to date is a lack of elasticity with regard to storage. One of the advantages of the public cloud is the ability to have a seemingly infinite amount of storage, but private cloud alternatives have generally fallen short in this.

Finally, effectively managing a cloud environment requires constant monitoring of that environment using the latest analytics technology. And again, the available options on the market do not provide sufficient cloud management capabilities that enterprises require today.

Stay tuned for the next post where we discuss on how to devise a more effective enterprise cloud strategy.

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