Cloudy waters made clear with standards

I have sat down with many customers across the globe for the past few years and have listened to them intently on their desire to move toward the cloud, their challenges and their fears, as well as the opportunities and benefits that they seek. Movement towards or adoption of cloud computing in my opinion is nothing more than a desire to be more productive and more responsive to the end users’ needs.


The notion of cloud has been around since IT itself. 


Cloud is a culmination of our technology maturity and the fact is that now the end users have a bigger voice on how they consume and are charged for services – while in the past IT has dictated all the terms. There were obvious technological hurdles that slowed the delivery of services to end users from IT. Add security and compliance along with governance and now you have services delivery down to a snail’s pace. Many times IT even invented things when it was hard to justify the delays. I call them the “Johnson rod” delays (from popular 90’s TV show Seinfeld). 


By now it is well documented that cloud – public, private or hybrid brings agility, perhaps cost reduction or at least cost deferment and choice for the end users. IT organizations on the other hand still have to worry about all the compliance and security challenges, but now they have to face an audience which is not willing to accept those justified reasons and certainly not the “Johnson rod” excuses. However, mature and approachable IT always has aspired to be as responsive as possible.  Their challenge is that they want to do it in a secure fashion, at the best cost possible while keeping an eye on the future—in other words being good corporate citizens. With cloud possibly becoming new “shadow IT” the choice of the wait and see approach is no longer available either. Again, IT has the big picture to keep in mind.


What can IT do to become more responsive?


Can IT adopt cloud delivery models where and as they make sense? Be more agile and flexible? Reduce risk and be cost effective and reduce the need for Shadow IT? And at the same time be the hero, get promotions, secure a prominent seat at the proverbial table and of course showcase the CIO vision and leadership. There are of course no silver bullets and each organization has to look at their own capabilities, customer needs, threat avoidance and an appetite for healthy doses of risk versus rewards.  There are few things which are very clear. Without the proper foundation, the tragic mistakes of yesteryears will look like youthful digressions if cloud is not done correctly. Security challenges will be far greater, compliance penalties will be huge, customer loyalties and market share will be at stake, and even the survival of business itself could be in jeopardy.


In order for IT to harness the flexibility and agility of cloud without compromising on security and compliance business as usual is not going to work. That much is a given. In addition the tools, policies and procedures that have been in place need an overhaul as well.  IT needs to really look at every step of the processes to see what can and should be automated.  Automation for the sake of automating things is not the goal either – hence standards are necessary. Simultaneously, to make sense with all the new paradigms and delivery and consumption models we need new management solutions which look at cloud in a completely different light. These new tools would enable IT management to have wider and farther visibility as well as more control thus becoming an essential part of the overall equation. Applying standards not only removes ambiguities and errors but also allows for future protections and openness.

 

Standards allow true visibility and control of every aspect of a cloud delivery model.


The term ‘standard’ unfortunately has been manipulated perhaps more than any other word in the English language.  Many vendors profess their love for standards and actively advocate their compliance to standards. While in reality what they are soliciting is that you “standardize” on their platforms or solutions and thus reap the benefits from their respective offerings. That might provide some benefits to a customer in the short term and it definitely requires much less investment from the vendor. In the long term this approach results in vendor lock -in and lack of customer choice.


True standards mean providing ultimate flexibility, providing pre-built integrations with not only the vendors own platforms and solutions but also with others, even competitors. And that is especially true in the world of cloud where all those nuances are hidden and the customer simply needs to leverage and utilize those publicly available services. Again, this requires a huge commitment from the vendors to provide the integrations, openness and architecture flexibility. Most vendors thus take the easy way out and simply just re-define the meaning of standards to fit their own marketing needs. Trust relationships between all parties— i.e., a vendor, a provider and the end user—can only be established when proper visibility and accountability measures are in place. This results in a comfort level that accelerates the adoption of cloud while providing the benefits which both enterprise IT and their end users seek.


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Comments
JudyRedman | ‎04-13-2011 08:21 AM

Shak, enjoyed your post, especially the comment about cloud computing and its potential to greatly improve productivity in the IT shop.  I'd love to hear more about that topic.

Judy Redman

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About the Author
Shakeeb "Shak" is responsible for HP's Cloud Solutions as Sr. Product Marketing Executive. He helps strategize HP's future directions around...
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