There’s definitely a lot of talk about the Cloud, what it is and what it means for you. In fact, I recently viewed a YouTube video that stars a very animated Larry Ellison (Oracle’s CEO) opining on the definition of Cloud Computing. His conclusion: it’s nothing new. According to Mr. Ellison, “Cloud computing is not the future of computing, it is the present… and the entire past of computing is all Cloud”. Which is what I’ve been saying for a while now. Ellison contends that anything that used to be called “the Internet” or “computer services” or even “rental or lease” has been relabeled as “Cloud” to get the attention of investors or to create media buzz. While Ellison seems to have similar opinions to my own… let me rephrase that… while Ellison is clearly a genius level visionary, I have to disagree with him on one point. While the technology is nothing new, the Cloud is pretty much the network or Mainframe model, the mindset of the client has become very different.
The first time you got involved in an automation project for a service or function you managed, your primary question was probably, “Will this work at all?” It’s kind of like someone showing up at your door with a bear and a bicycle saying, “Hey, have you ever seen a bear ride a bicycle?” You’re not sure where this is going, but it the guy with the bear certainly has your attention! You may have led some of these “computerization” projects, or you may have just inherited them. Either way, you’re long past the point where anyone has to prove to you that computers can help your operation. However, if you’re going to move work to another platform you’ll want to be convinced about 3 things:
- Moving your work to the cloud provides a tangible benefit
- The Cloud vendor’s services will work as advertised
- Your connection to the Cloud is secure
It’s really about trust. Trusting a service that is running somewhere in the world, possibly at a site that you may never personally visit. Even as I write this, computer services you use today may be moving into the Cloud. Perhaps because another corporate group (such as IT, Communications, Corporate Security, etc.) that needs to improve a performance or cost metric that does not affect you directly. In that situation, you may receive little notice about these moves. Even if you hear about it, you may not be asked to be involved. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t proactively speak with your IT department (or any other technology group your firm has) and ask them to map out any service changes that could affect the services that you provide. If you approach this properly, as an ally rather than as an obstacle, you can gain insight into where your services are headed and you may be able to provide fresh insights on how your firm’s services need to evolve that a pure technology group may not be aware of. Assuming that the move to the Cloud is initiated by another group, you should focus on item #3 (since 1 and 2 are probably in the domain of the group that initiated the move). Assuming the data belongs to you, concerns over data security would probably be given the best reception.
Since the Cloud is a form of outsourcing, there is an extra benefit that you can expect. This service will be managed through a contract, and (for most of you) the contract will provide many more details about the service than you receive today. If you work with your technology groups, you can use this to define a roadmap of your services. With this, you can identify problems and issues, and have a much more informed discussion with the internal groups that support your operations. If you are involved early on when new Cloud Services are evaluated, it will be easier to ask very specific questions about the service and request that the contract addresses your concerns.
So remember, even if the Cloud represents unknown risks (and it does!), a move to the Cloud also means that you will have more opportunities to shape and to document the services you depend on. And that’s my Niccolls worth for today!