If you stop and think for a moment, cloud computing is still in its youth. EC2 has only been a public offering since 2006. Gartner first treated “the cloud” as a real thing about a decade ago. Seven years ago, I saw an early version of the IaaS offering for one of the big three, and it was almost unusable. From this perspective, “the cloud” is still maturing. The last several years have seen a dramatic evolution in the plethora of offerings.
Cloud has fundamentally changed the technological landscape, in a similar way as virtualization did a few years before. The benefits of cloud have had many going nuts for a while with cheers of “Cloud first!” and “We’re all in on cloud!” But what if you’re hesitant and wondering if the cloud is right for you and your organization? That’s OK and part of what we’ll explore today—some reasons you may or may not want to consider staying on-premises.
What’s Your Motivation?
In my mind, this is the biggest question you need to ask yourself, your org, and your stakeholders. Why are you moving to the cloud?
Is your business highly dynamic or does it need to scale rapidly?
Do you need to leverage an OpEx cost model for cash flow purposes?
Does your app need a refactor to leverage new technologies?
These are some of the best drivers for moving to the cloud and they bear more investigation.
Is your manager prone to moving you on to the next big thing, but only until the next big thing comes along?
Are you making the move simply because everyone else is doing it?
Do you believe you’ll inherently save money by shifting your infrastructure to cloud?
These things should give you pause, and you’ll need to overcome them if you want a successful cloud strategy.
Risk and Control
In my experience, most people hesitate to move to the cloud because of risk. Namely, your tolerance for risk within your information security program. It seems every week we hear news of a breach from an insecure cloud configuration. Now, is the cloud provider to blame for the breach? Almost certainly not. However, depending on several factors, most primarily your competencies. They may make it easier to leave yourself open to risk. Can the same situation perpetuate on-premises? Absolutely. Just remember, breaches happened before cloud was a thing. Ask yourself if any additional risk from changing providers/paradigms is within your tolerance level. If it is, great! You’re ready to continue your cloud analysis. If not, you need to determine a better move for you. Do you change your platform? Or do you change your risk tolerance?
What about where your data is and who has access to it? One of the early IaaS leaders, who’s still one of the top 10 providers, required administrative access to your servers. How particular are you and your organization about data locality and retention times? What happens to your data when you leave a provider? All these problems can be overcome, but before committing to any change in direction, ask yourself where you want to spend your resources: on changing how you mitigate risk in a new environment or dealing with a known commodity.
What do you want your people to do and what do they want to do? Chances are your IT organization has somewhere between one and hundreds of technologists. Switching platforms requires retraining and leveling these people up. You need to consider your appetite for these tasks and weigh it against the costs of running your business should you stick with the status quo.
You should have a similar discussion around your toolsets. In the grand scheme of things, cloud is still relatively young. Many vendors aren’t ready to support a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud approach. As it relates to operations, do you need to standardize and have a single pane of glass or are you OK with different toolsets for different environments?
Finally, you need to think about how your strategies affect your staff and what it means for employee retention. If your business is cutting-edge, pushing boundaries, and disrupting without leveraging the cloud, you could end up with a people problem. Conversely, if you operate in a stable, predictable environment, you’ll need to consider whether disruption from changing your infrastructure is worth upending your team. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t decide on a business strategy solely on employee happiness. On the other hand, engaged teams are routinely shown to be more effective, so it’s a factor to consider.
All these questions aside, neither the cloud nor the legacy data center is going anywhere anytime soon. Heck, I just installed a mainframe recently, so you can trust most technology has varying degrees of stickiness. I want you and your organization to choose the right tool for the situation. Hopefully, considering a couple of different viewpoints helps you make the right choice.
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