Cloud computing promised the world, but in recent years doubts have arisen in companies about its necessity and feasibility, says Satyen K. Bordoloi
Few today remember connected corporate offices in the first decade of the 21st century. Servers occupied the messiest parts, from which multi-colored cables squirted in a chaotic mess that only network engineers could magically unravel. The joke in one office I worked in was that an IITian was hired just to keep track of which wire went where.
Enterprise cloud computing of the 2010s magically changed this “hellscape”. The office looked manageable again, the lines were burning and the infestations of network technicians in offices were reduced.
However, if a Wanclouds study is to be believed, 81% of IT leaders say they have been asked to reduce or avoid additional cloud spending. After over a decade of growth, as the complexity and cost of a multi-cloud solution become as unwieldy as early 2000s offices and headwinds of a recession loom on the horizon, the promise of enterprise cloud computing seems to be faltering.
What is enterprise cloud computing?
The old office had everything – network, server, data storage, applications and services – in-house. This added complexity and cost to businesses as they had to buy equipment and hire people to manage it. With the ubiquity of high-speed internet, a new “cloud” model emerged. Data storage, applications, and services were run by companies whose sole mission was to make them available to others in ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access in this shared pool of configurable computing resources. These required minimal effort and interaction with the service provider. It saved organizations costs and helped businesses by eliminating most of their network worries as CSPs – cloud service providers – took care of those needs.
The last decade was a decade of the CSP. But the curd has started to sour lately.
The problems with enterprise cloud computing
The complexity has multiplied over the decade as newer applications have emerged that have integrated every new development, including artificial intelligence. Today there is hardly a CSP that can fulfill all the requirements of a client from the application or service side. Differing requirements have led to companies hiring different service providers, increasing process complexity and costs.
CSPs must reserve resources, resulting in outages and downtime at inconvenient times that disrupt critical business processes. Some downtime is inevitable even with the best cloud service providers. Organizations also suffer from a lack of control and flexibility in many aspects of IT management as CSPs manage it for them. Migrating from one CSP to another is also difficult, cumbersome, and incurs downtime, leading to vendor lock-in that may not be in the best interest of the organization.
Security is a big concern. Although most CSPs use the best infrastructure and technologies to make their services as secure as possible, cloud security breaches are inevitable. Take the case of 69 million user accounts hacked and their user data stolen in 2012, or when Apple’s iCloud was hacked and celebrities’ private photos were stolen. Or the theft of 170 million emails and passwords from LinkedIn in 2016.
The actual problem
As always, things are not as simple as reports predict. On the enterprise cloud horizon, the clouds aren’t necessarily dark, they’re muddy.
The report states, “Multicloud adoption is becoming unwieldy and costs are difficult to manage in hybrid environments.” This can be mitigated by how an organization plans its cloud spend and usage before committing to a CSP. services. Many purchased solutions go unused, others subscribe but do not meet requirements, resulting in poor ROI.
Also, the other problem is that many in the industry overpromised, oversold, and overcharged with the CSP revolution. That was fine until the market did well, but with a looming recession and cost-cutting the order of the day, most companies are doubling their savings. The unfulfilled promise takes on ever greater dimensions.
Therefore, an effective solution might be extreme discipline and focus before hiring a CSP. A company’s needs, both in terms of services and architecture, must be viewed with a tooth comb. One solution fits all mentalities, and buying into hypes won’t help. A company’s future plans and footprints also need to be considered from the start so that the right CSP can be hired, rather than opting for a complex multi-cloud solution later.
The most important thing to remember is the core of what CSP is. It is not a panacea for an organization’s needs. It’s just a technology that meets your business needs, and it can only do so if the right amount of upfront planning goes into it. Planning not just for the present, but for future contingencies will help cloud solutions live up to the hype and expectations that come with it.
So are we moving back to the unwieldy days of the pre-cloud days? It may make sense for a few. But for the vast majority, the opposite is true. The need is to double down on the cloud, but with consistency and focus. When mistakes are made, you have to learn from them. It’s that easy. The good news is that it doesn’t get any easier than that.