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The Cloud – Is It Your Actual Destination?
Remember, the cloud is not the destination – it’s the conduit to help you get there

How often have you heard someone say ‘We're moving to the cloud' or ‘It's all in the cloud now'? Going to the cloud has become part of the vernacular in everyday conversation. The cloud is the place to go, the place to be. If you haven't gone to the cloud you are being left behind. There is no denying, the cloud is a growth industry. Gartner predicts that the bulk of IT spend will be for the cloud by 2016. They also believe that ‘nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017.' IDC forecasts ‘Worldwide Public IT Cloud Services Spending to Reach Nearly $108 Billion by 2017.'

Given all that, it's not hard to understand the desire to ‘go to the cloud.' Those numbers are what drive vendors to slap the word ‘cloud' on just about anything, providing us with yet another wonderful buzzword, ‘cloud-washing.' But, ask yourself, is the cloud an actual destination? Is it the end point, that just by going there, all my business challenges are resolved? The cloud itself is not the true destination. The true destination is solving business challenges and providing value to the business. The cloud is simply a vehicle, a conduit that can help you reach that destination. The cloud can offer a variety of ways to help you get to your destination depending on where you want go in solving the challenges and providing value to the business.

The multiple dimensions of ‘going to the cloud'
One of the reasons everyone is ‘going to the cloud' is the multitude of ways the cloud can provide value to a business, or help solve a business challenge. At its simplest, the cloud is a model for on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources. These resources allow for on-demand access to many business services from many sources to many devices. It is the underpinnings of the SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) technology disruptions of today, what Gartner refers to as ‘The Nexus of Forces.' Cloud offerings/solutions are usually defined by one of three key service models:

  • IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service
  • PaaS - Platform as a Service
  • SaaS - Software as a Service

These models can be viewed through different perspectives of purpose, abstraction, visible value to the end user, as well as control and governance when crossing the dimensions of public through to private clouds.

So many choices, so little time
As you can see by all these dimensions, in the cloud world there is a large multitude of ways to provide business value and solve the challenges. Add to this dilemma the pressure of time; the need to deliver this value as quickly as possible. Combining these two challenges can and for some businesses already has led to ‘cloud sprawl.' Cloud sprawl is exactly what it sounds like. It is the unplanned, uncontrolled spreading of applications and services into the cloud for a company and/or organization. As many of you that have read my earlier blogs know, one of my favorite mantras is ‘no technology negates the need for good planning and design.' Cloud is no exception. You need to determine the business drivers, what the challenges are you need to address, and what the business value is you are trying to achieve.

Doing this is not a trivial effort. As a colleague of mine, Zach Slayton, recently wrote in his blog Accelerating Business Value by Architecting for the Mobile Web - ‘architecting for the mobile web is hard work.' Planning and designing for the cloud is hard work. It's our responsibility as technologists to do that hard work. We need to help the business reach their destination and achieve the value they need in today's rapidly changing Nexus of forces.

When planning a trip or vacation, you don't choose how you are going to get there before you decide where you are going to go. Remember, the cloud is not the destination; it's the conduit to help you get there. Figure out where you are going first, and then plan on how to get there.

About Ed Featherston
Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

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