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Cloud, schmoud, right? If you’ve been nodding your head sagely anytime the cloud comes up, while quietly thinking to yourself “what does cloud even mean?”, rest assured you’re not alone. No clear definition of cloud computing is still very much a challenge, and is partially down to “cloudwashing” — calling anything and everything “cloud computing”. This is according to David Mitchell Smith, vice president and Gartner Fellow at Gartner Research, speaking at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015 in Cape Town.
Some more reassurance: according to Smith, the number one inquiry at Gartner is “what’s a cloud strategy and how do I get started?”
Smith urges avoiding a “bring-your-own definition” when talking about cloud, so, for the record, here is Gartner’s definition of cloud computing: “A style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’ to customers using internet technologies.”
Here are Gartner’s top 10 cloud myths that are dangerous to your digital business, and what you can do to debunk them. Caveat: he does point out that for every myth, the complete opposite is very often also equally as misguided. Your challenge is to not only avoid these myths, but also to avoid a polarised situation. “There are a lot of paths to the cloud,” said Smith.
Myth 1: Cloud is always about money
“‘Cloud saves me money’ is a career limiting assumption,” said Smith. “I’m not saying money isn’t important, but cloud is not always about money.”
According to Gartner’s 2014 CIO Survey, 50% of respondents said agility was their primary reason for investing in public cloud services, with cost second at 14%.
Recommendation: don’t assume cost savings until you’ve done the work to analyse your specific situation.
Myth 2: You have to be cloud to be good
Thanks to cloudwashing — more often perpetrated by end-users nowadays, not vendors — there is the perception that you need to call something “cloud” to get funding or be seen as in-the-know, regardless of what you are trying to do.
“You don’t have to be cloud to be good. Lots of things are good,” said Smith. “Cloud is good for some things, but not all things.”
Recommendation: look for the best fit when using technology to support your business.
Myth 3: Cloud should be used for everything
Don’t expect huge benefits if you’re doing what Smith calls a “lift and shift”: simply moving virtualised apps from your data centre to the cloud. You might want to sit down for this shocker, but according to Gartner: “not all applications and workloads are a good fit for the cloud.”
Recommendation: focus on desired outcomes and evaluate actions on a case-by-case basis. This could result in you embracing public cloud, considering private cloud, experimenting with what works best or avoiding the cloud all together.
Myth 4: “The CEO said so” is a cloud strategy
Executive mandate does not a cloud strategy make, warns Smith.
Recommendation: find a balance between doing IT reliably and fast (Gartner’s two modes in its post-Nexus world), and also between doing it all yourself and outsourcing all IT. Again, base this on your business goals and imperatives.
Myth 5: We need one cloud strategy or solution
Nope. “Not very many vendors can do everything well,” said Smith. Instead, establish your own rule of thumb. Perhaps it’s a cloud-first one, where all new applications are built for the cloud.
Recommendation: your use of cloud services will become increasingly varied and diverse, so factor a range of options into strategy.
Myth 6: Cloud is less secure than on-premises solutions
“Cloud providers generally do an outstanding job at security,” said Smith. “Cloud is more secure, but the risks are different.” He compares this to the risks of flying vs driving: while flying is safer, the impact of an air accident is greater. He also cautions that who is ultimately responsible for security depends on the cloud service: with SaaS it’s clearly the service provider; with IaaS, apart from the infrastructure layer, it’s probably you.
Recommendation: avoid generalisations and set high standards for all. Remember that the opposite myth can also be true.
Myth 7: Cloud is not for mission-critical use
According to the 2014 Gartner Cloud Adoption Survey, 28% of organisations using cloud services today are using cloud for mission-critical operations. Indeed, companies like Netflix are cloud businesses.
Recommendation: Manage risks and adopt cloud in phases with hybrid solutions playing a role.
Myth 8: Cloud = Data centre outsourcing/hosting
While your cloud strategy should not be independent of your data centre strategy, it is not the same thing. “Cloud is not all or nothing. The real world is going to be hybrid — a combination of various public clouds, private clouds and community cloud services,” said Smith.
Recommendation: you’ll have to do more integrations, and more difficult integrations.
Myth 9: Migrating to cloud means automatically getting cloud characteristics
Things like scalability, elasticity and shared services need to be built into apps. A simple lift and shift from your data centre to the cloud isn’t going to change the characteristics of an application, warns Smith. “You have to build them in.”
Recommendation: re-architect for the cloud to exploit cloud capabilities and shortcomings.
Myth 10: Virtualisation = private cloud
“Cloud is a service, not a technology. You should not have to care about the technology underlying the service,” said Smith. “Virtualisation is not the cloud. It’s important but not required. Cloud computing requires a well-defined service interface.”
Recommendation: Don’t impose the private cloud when you don’t need it as it leads to complexity and things you don’t need. And, use the right names for things.
To conclude: don’t cloudwash; test everything against your business’s requirements; and the best way to learn about the cloud is to use it.