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The cloud adoption roadmap: Dead ends, detours and potholes



Not long ago, I was having coffee with a consultant friend of mine. He asked me a seemingly straightforward question: "What are the barriers to cloud adoption?" However, knowing my friend’s extensive experience in the area of cloud computing, I realized his question was a googly (or a curveball, for those unfamiliar with cricket). Indeed, it’s a topic has been volleyed on countless forums, roundtables, events, cocktail parties, and tech media; hence, it was not a new question to have been asked by this gentleman. In response, I posed a counter-question: "What answers do you get from others?" After a considerable silence, he said: "I seldom get the true picture."


This vindicated my apprehension about responding immediately. It’s not an easy question that I could have simply answered by talking about security, standards, SLAs and vendor lock-in. To initiate a healthy debate, I am going to put forward my thoughts and observations, which may go against popular sentiment—my unconditional apologies if the truth appears to be harsh or if I make mistakes in expressing myself.


In my view, the true reasons behind cloud adoption are different from what we think. Unfortunately, many constraints mentioned by consumers of cloud are packed with answers and solutions. Still, we share the same views over and over again and it becomes a perceived truth.  In my view, some of the reasons that prevent cloud adoption are:


Lack of understanding: Although there are many people who claim that they understand cloud very well, in fact many of them are not in sync with grounded realities; and I am no exception. The deeper I explored it, the more myths got busted. In the absence of knowledge, myths and hype rule the roost; and much of it is created by technology vendors to suit their convenience. Most people believe that security is an issue. I ask small and medium business (SMB) consumers if they can protect their data better than large cloud providers can.


Organizational politics: It will raise many an eyebrow as to why organizational politics comes in the way of cloud initiatives. I suggest everyone read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, wherein an initiative to build a windmill in the farm was at the epicenter of politics. Those who opposed were actually in favor of it, and those who took the initiative were branded as opponents. You can always find a correlation with a real-world situation and may actually be able to relate to some of the characters.


Sometimes you have a marketing team that would like the initiative to be under its hat or you have another department that thinks it should be the rightful owner. Thanks to commoditization of technology, this is more of a business challenge than technological one, and it is time to rethink jurisdictions and redefine the line of control. Very often, internal IT infrastructure chiefs may oppose cloud because they feel they are losing control or the power to spend.


Capex vs opex: This topic is less debated but it also needs to be looked at carefully. It is perceived that most cloud spending is in opex and hence no scope of capitalization of cloud. For specific shareholding interests, the cloud will be discouraged for financial reasons unless the CIO is able to convince how cloud can be capitalized.


Understanding of value: Most cloud providers have tried to convince their customers that the real value lies in cost savings. Cost is easier, more tangible and more lucrative to sell. A perception has been built around the expectation of savings. In reality, however, when you look at the total cost of operations—which includes implementation, license, support, etc.—it may not always be a delight. The opportunity that exists, for sure, is cycle time reduction in provisioning the servers which is the biggest benefit of cloud. In my humble opinion, the true value should be shown in terms of cycle time, followed by cost reduction so that it does not create any hype.


Conflict of interests: There are many cloud providers who happen to be hardware manufacturers as well. Cloud has a possibility of cannibalizing one business unit because of another. This is a dichotomy, and conflict of interest is bound to arise. How the organizations deal with these conflicts is interesting. But in private, there are many who believe that this has an implication on how cloud is perceived or the speed at which it may be adopted. In my view, constructive destruction is necessary at times for survival, and the growth of cloud may lead to increased demand for hardware.


Lack of connection: I feel that there is a lack of connection between various parties, and a true understanding can come if we debate the issues more often. On a lighter note, cocktails and dinners over cloud definitely serve our tummy and sometimes our brain too. It is now time to have a more serious dialogue on what the IT industry wants from cloud. If public cloud is comparatively more secure, provides better SLAs, and there are ways to capitalize, cut down cycle time and save costs, we have the answers to a lot of questions. We should not wait any longer.


My aim is to ignite a healthy debate to uncover truths, which may or may not be relevant today. If there are genuine concerns, we have to find answers. We have to work on standards and ensure that we adopt cloud faster, if it is worth the time and effort. 


My humble request to IT chiefs is to participate in this debate and take cloud to the next level; so that the next time we have coffee together, we talk about "cloud broker architecture" and not "cloud adoption."


Related links:

The I in CIO stands for “innovation”

What the business is saying when it says ‘cloud’


Currently a partner at CIO Specialist Advisory LLP, DD Mishra has more than 19 years of experience in IT. He has played key roles, including IT governance and outsourcing, program and portfolio management, consultancy, presales and delivery for various customers in the UK, India and Singapore and has experience from both the buyer side and seller side. He is a member of the Discover Performance community's IT Strategy & Performance LinkedIn group.


This blog was first posted on and is being reposted with prior permission.

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