Business & IT need to work together to cross the Cloud Chasm

Many believe that virtualization equals cloud. Although virtualization works as a catalyst in creating a more efficient, scalable and dynamic cloud environment, it does not “automagically” turn a company’s environment into a cloud. In fact, if you review the five key characteristics in my previous post, you’ll see that they may or may not require virtualization at all. For example, in the 1990s, I worked for a voicemail telecommunications provider that offered highly expandable system architectures that scaled and spanned across multiple users, networks, carriers and environments to provide telephony services for hundreds of thousands across the globe. All without virtualization. The solution would have been considered a cloud solution given the NIST definition. Why? Because voicemail systems have the five key characteristics of cloud. They are elastic, they provide self service on demand, they span a broad network, they leverage a pool of hardware and software resources and they have sophisticated capabilities for measuring and reporting usage.

The point is that, although cloud wasn’t even defined until 2011, this model has existed across other industries for decades with and without earlier forms of virtualization.

As senior IT leaders, whether or not you have deployed cloud, more than likely both you and your business users have used solutions that were enabled by a cloud backbone or infrastructure. Every day when you pick up your cell phone, text your colleague about that important meeting or send an email, you are leveraging a cloud-based infrastructure. For this very reason, the best cloud providers are actually the telecommunications providers — with a few exceptions such as Amazon and Saavis.

Why is this revelation important? How often do you have to think about the technical requirements or solutions it takes to deliver your phone service? You don’t. You just expect it to work. And when it doesn’t, very rarely are you calling the provider to tell them how to solve the problem or asking about network or other technical details. You merely provide the symptoms that demonstrate the “service” isn’t working. Yet when we, as IT professionals, sell a solution to our business counterparts, we typically talk in terms of the underlying technology versus the “services” that we will be able to deliver.

Cloud washing is an epidemic that not only impacts IT but also the business and in part is fueling Shadow IT. Why? Because vendors are using the same buzz words that business users are hearing from their IT counterparts. Virtualization. Cloud. Agility. Elasticity. These cloud washers are employing business language to describe how the service they provide will address the pain points as well as reduce costs and increase time to value.

In many cases the vendors are now bypassing IT all together and selling directly to their business counterparts. This is particularly true for SaaS solutions and in part for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings.  However well intentioned, these vendors and your business counterparts are, the solutions they are deploying are often driving up risk and introducing hidden costs.

iSpeak Cloud discusses the importance and strategies at insuring the Business has a seat at the table with IT.  The format of the book was created to provide the different perspectives that many executives have to think about when devising an overall cloud strategy.  The key is to have a strategy and strong relationship with your Business counterparts so in lieu of working around IT – you are the first they turn to as their trusted adviser.  Although it may seem idealistic – from my experience in implementing these solutions it is very possible for both IT and the Business to embrace the change and work together toward joint solutions that help bridge the cloud chasm.  Doing so will not only increase viability of the cloud services you offer but also help improve the overall company’s bottom line.

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