The cloud has been the driving force behind the expansion of enterprise infrastructure and the adoption of service-based resource deployment and application delivery over the past decade. Surveys suggest that more than 90 percent of enterprises worldwide employ the cloud in one form or another, which would make it seem like the dominant support structure for enterprise data activity. But is it really? While no one doubts the efficacy of the cloud, how much of the actual enterprise workload has been ported to the cloud so far?
Not as much as it might seem. According to 451 Research, the average enterprise has migrated about 40 percent of its total workload to the cloud, with a possible increase to 60 percent by 2018. While impressive, it by no means suggests that local data infrastructure is ready for the scrap heap just yet. Cisco Systems is a bit more bullish, expecting upwards of 92 percent of all data center traffic to be in the cloud by 2020, although a good chunk of that increase will come from the rise of cloud-native big data and IoT applications, not the wholesale migration of legacy apps to third-party providers. (To learn about different types of cloud services for enterprise, see Public Cloud vs. Private On-Premise Cloud.)
So, what gives? What's holding companies back from fully implementing the cloud? Let's take a look at some of the inhibiting factors.
Inhibiting Factors of Cloud Adoption
As enterprise executives gain experience in the cloud, it seems that a more nuanced image of its benefits and drawbacks is emerging. As it turns out, many organizations are hesitant to pull the trigger on cloud deployments due to a number of factors, including:
- Cost – This may seem like a misnomer considering the cloud’s much-touted TCO advantages, but the fact remains that cloud costs increase on par with scale and the length of the deployment. In short, the bigger the environment and the longer it remains operational, the higher the cost.
- Complexity – Connectivity, integration, orchestration, data migration and a host of other factors become more complex over distributed architectures. Because cloud providers are usually juggling the needs of multiple clients, the enterprise is often on its own to make it all work.
- Lack of skillsets – Cloud-savvy IT technicians are still uncommon in the enterprise, and training is expensive.
- FUD – Fear, uncertainty and doubt still plague the cloud. The enterprise has long managed its own security, reliability and other needs, with varying degrees of success. Transferring these responsibilities to a third-party provider becomes more difficult as the workload becomes more critical.
What can cloud providers do to address these concerns? In a nutshell, the primary objective should be to build relationships with enterprise customers. Part of this can be accomplished by building and maintaining state-of-the-art technology through streamlined infrastructure and high levels of automation, but on another level it requires constant communication with the user base. By maintaining personal relationships with clients and placing customer service as a core competency, cloud providers can tailor their offerings around successful client outcomes, not simply lower costs or trendy application environments. (To dispel fears about cloud computing, see Top 10 Cloud Computing Myths Busted.)
Trust and Verify
A recent study by CTERA, for instance, revealed that most enterprises face a serious disconnect between the security and continuity they receive from on-prem infrastructure and what they get from the cloud. The overall assumption is that the cloud is naturally resilient to outages and attack, but this is not necessarily the case. Cloud providers that fail to address these critical needs from a user perspective run the risk of losing credibility should the unthinkable happen.
In addition, many IT shops are leery over the lack of visibility they receive into cloud-based architectures, according to cloud automation developer Embotics. This speaks directly to the basic issue of trust because users have no way to independently verify that they are receiving the level of resources that they think they are paying for.
Still, it seems likely that as startup enterprises gain footholds in their respective markets, many will turn to all-cloud architectures as a means to scale up operations quickly without incurring the massive debt required to build local infrastructure. Indeed, companies like Netflix have devised successful business models hosting mission-critical operations entirely in the cloud, and many mobile service providers thrive on the speed and agility that the cloud lends to increasingly distributed workforces.
For the legions of existing organizations, however, the cloud is likely to be met with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation for some time. With hybrid infrastructure platforms allowing firms to leverage legacy infrastructure with third-party resources, expect to see ongoing demand for increasingly customized solutions that mix and match a wide range of existing and emerging technologies.
Clearly, the cloud has arrived and it isn’t going anywhere. But the enterprise data center still has some life to it as well, and corporate secrets being what they are, there is every possibility that some infrastructure – albeit highly modular, hyperconverged infrastructure – will remain in-house for the foreseeable future.
The challenge for cloud providers today is to identify and accentuate their strengths when supporting key enterprise functions while building bridges to applications and services hosted elsewhere.