Cloud Islands & Fantasy Islands: Addressing the Cloud’s Dark Side

Photo of Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke and Herve Villechaize as TattooRemember the TV show Fantasy Island? The late 70s/early 80s show would start with a character named Tattoo shouting “The plane! The plane!” and pointing to the sky at a plane coming to the Island filled with a bunch of people looking to fulfill a fantasy. The other main character, Mr. Roarke (aka Khan Noonien Singh for you fellow Trekkies) would always smile at the guests and then point out to his sidekick that while the fantasy seemed to be all good on the surface, there was actually great danger ahead for the fantasy seekers.

There’s a bit of a “Fantasy Island” going on in IT today, as everyone is pointing to the sky and saying “The cloud! The cloud!” indicating that the cloud is the panacea to all of IT woes. Cloud will lower costs, improve productivity, reduce opex, reduce capex, solve world hunger, and make you a sandwich all before noon! Is this true? Is the cloud really the answer to all of ITs problems? Well not quite. If Hervé Villechaize were standing beside me right now I’d lean over and tell him that the CIO’s fantasy won’t turn out exactly as expected.

From a vision perspective the cloud is certainly filled with goodness, but the path to cloud nirvana can be a tricky one, particularly for businesses that want to shift to a hybrid cloud model — which is almost everyone. The 2014 ZK Research cloud computing study indicated that almost 80% of organizations planned to deploy a hybrid cloud. Sure, the very small will probably go all public and the very large will likely go all private, but what about the other millions of companies? For them, hybrid will be the way.

Getting to the end of the hybrid cloud path is filled with as much danger as skipping down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. But instead of facing witches and other nefarious creatures, CIOs must deal with figuring out how to get from here to the cloud safely and securely. It seems to me there are a few key areas where the most help is needed:

  • Infrastructure modernization. I’m fairly confident that most IT leaders could deploy a private cloud in a greenfield situation. However, most businesses don’t have this luxury. IT needs to understand how to evolve from the legacy systems in place today to more modern technology such as converged systems and software-defined networks without disrupting the business.
  • Implementing a private cloud. Deploying a private cloud is more than just dropping some new technology in place. There are a number of other issues to be dealt with, such as how to move to a shared services model, cataloging services, and implementing an “IT as a service” model.
  • Evolution to a hybrid cloud. The term hybrid cloud means more than just having public cloud services and a private cloud co-resident within IT. That’s not hybrid, it’s just cloud islands. A hybrid cloud is when workloads, data, and information are free to migrate between the various islands creating a “cloud platform”. Without the integration of the clouds, any kind of migration of data would need to be done manually, which raises the bar on complexity.
  • Business case planning. A CEO may say, “Let’s move to the cloud,” but the CFO is certainly going to want some kind of justification to do so. The CIO is caught in the middle trying to put a business case together to explain why the cloud makes economic sense. The problem is, the business case is a multi-dimensional problem with very little in the way of best practices. If your IT staff includes Stephen Hawking, have at it and calculate the business case — if not, this task may not be as easy as you think.

The cloud certainly holds a tremendous amount of potential, and is the direction that IT needs to move in to achieve a high level of business agility. However, there is certainly a dark side of the cloud. I ask all of the systems integrators, professional services firms, VARs, telcos and other organizations in the “cloud” business: Where are the cloud enablement services to help businesses migrate to the cloud and avoid all of the potential pitfalls that can occur along the way? It’s time for this group to step up!

Image credit: WikiMedia Commons