The Biggest Barrier to Cloud Adoption

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Crossing the Cloud Adoption Chasm

The Cloud Adoption Chasm (photo by selkovjr via Flikr)

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting alongside Dr. David Reed, one of the best thinkers in the future of computing, and Steve Russell, an innovative leader at Morgan Stanley, who has led the implementation of the largest and most successful private cloud I’ve heard of – very impressive. The event was part of our on-going Diamond Exchange program.

David shared his ideas about “3 clouds.”  The first cloud is connectivity, embodied by the Internet itself.  The second cloud is made up of resources, and is really the essence of the cloud movement we are seeing now in the public and private clouds.  Reed describes the third cloud as a social cloud made up of people and relationships, not computing resources.  More on the third cloud in a future post.

Steve presented an incredible story about how he and his team at Morgan Stanley created a very high performance and low cost private cloud using a combination of off the shelf tools, open source software, custom integration glue and a lot of sweat.

I batted clean-up and shared my thoughts on why we haven’t seen faster adoption of cloud services in the enterprise.

Top Cloud Adoption Barrier is Integration

Most of us are comfortable using services in the cloud.  In fact, I bet that anyone reading this has 5+ accounts with Hotmail, GMail (and Google Docs), Flikr, Box.net, etc.  What really got me thinking about cloud adoption (or lack of) was a personal experience using some of these services combined with an experience of one of our consumer products clients.

At the end of August, I went on a salmon fishing trip to the Pacific coast of British Columbia.  During the trip, I took over 1,500 photos (no, fishing isn’t enough of a hobby for me, I had to add photography on top of it!).  To keep the photos from never seeing the light of day, I set a goal to make a photo book out of the good ones.  To make a long story shorter, I used three cloud-based applications to make this happen:

  1. SmugMug – the best photo organizer out there, $30-40 per year but well worth it as there are no storage or photo size limits and the website is beautiful
  2. Photoshop.com – the younger sister to the desktop photo editor Photoshop Elements line, not as functional but free
  3. MyPublisher – photo book design and publishing

The interesting thing about this experience is that there isn’t a one-stop-shop for all of these services, at least with the features and functions and quality I was looking for. So, each of the photos I want to work with have to be moved from camera to computer, from computer to site 1, from site 1 to computer, computer to site 2, etc. – you get the idea.  Furthermore, the integration is done by me – I am the human integration architecture.

Compare this with a consumer products client of Diamond’s.  They have a very lean in-house infrastructure.  They use hosted or cloud based systems for everything they can, especially around interaction with customers and management of related data.  In short, they have adopted Salesforce.com and a few hosted social community applications to interact with their salesforce and customers.  With these sites and services established, they set out to tackle consolidation and analysis of all of the customer information – across several hosted systems and databases.  Unfortunately, no single vendor provided a one stop shop with the features and functions and quality they were looking for (sound familiar?).  So, they were forced to add more infrastructure, databases and software in house to serve as a customer data hub.

Until enterprise-class integration standards, tools and cloud vendors are established, we just won’t see an appreciable increase of cloud based applications in the enterprise.


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  • Raj

    Chris,

    Agreed on the integration point; in addition, performance testing too – these are the two key pre-requisites for cloud adoption. My view has been that for smaller firms who are either startups or have leased infrastructure, it makes sense to start “cloud-first”, but for the vast majority of enterprises (say with revenues over $1B) a hybrid option is more practical. Exisiting investments in their own datacenters will be augmented with cloud, with means that the business process “seamless-ness” becomes a priority. That leads to integration and performance testing to ensure an acceptable quaility of service.

    The concept of human integration architecture will continue to exist on the B2C front unfortunately! Mechanical turk anyone ;-)?

  • Raj

    Chris,

    Agreed on the integration point; in addition, performance testing too – these are the two key pre-requisites for cloud adoption. My view has been that for smaller firms who are either startups or have leased infrastructure, it makes sense to start “cloud-first”, but for the vast majority of enterprises (say with revenues over $1B) a hybrid option is more practical. Exisiting investments in their own datacenters will be augmented with cloud, with means that the business process “seamless-ness” becomes a priority. That leads to integration and performance testing to ensure an acceptable quaility of service.

    The concept of human integration architecture will continue to exist on the B2C front unfortunately! Mechanical turk anyone ;-)?

  • I agree on the last statement in bold. Adoption of cloud computing inside the datacenter will lag until there is a broad need for applications that can take advantage of cloud computing.

    The architecture and design for enterprise applications always lags behind the available technology. Most vendors are not willing to put in the development funds to fully take advantage of newer technology until they think it is going to start costing them significant sales or maintenance fees.

    As some early adopting enterprises start looking for payback on their “cloud experiments”, this will create some opportunities for newer companies or those willing to fund new development for the cloud to compete against longer established software companies.

  • I agree on the last statement in bold. Adoption of cloud computing inside the datacenter will lag until there is a broad need for applications that can take advantage of cloud computing.

    The architecture and design for enterprise applications always lags behind the available technology. Most vendors are not willing to put in the development funds to fully take advantage of newer technology until they think it is going to start costing them significant sales or maintenance fees.

    As some early adopting enterprises start looking for payback on their “cloud experiments”, this will create some opportunities for newer companies or those willing to fund new development for the cloud to compete against longer established software companies.

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