Have Bystanders Already Lost the Cloud Race?

By: Tom NiklDecember 20, 2016

Every now and again “The Office” (yes, the American version, but I love the British version, too) struck a poignant chord with me. In one scene, Jan is talking to Pam about pursuing her art career through a program at work. Pam rattles off a few excuses why it won’t work and Jan quips back with “there are always a million reasons not to do something”.

This has stuck with me throughout the years, and I’ve often had to repeat it to myself to move forward on something I was otherwise debating. And, I imagine that Pam and Jan’s dialogue echo the conversations that IT departments have amongst themselves about getting into the public cloud.

“It’s too expensive”, “it’s too complex”, “we don’t have the manpower”, and so on and so forth. Yes, there are always a million reasons not to do something. Always a reason to push it out to next quarter, and the next quarter, and then next year, and so on. However, we’d advise any IT department waiting for “the perfect time” to realize that the perfect time is now. Especially if your competitors have already decided their time is now. It’s happening more often these days, and if your competitors complete their cloud migration before you begin, they’ll have some serious agility and cost advantages over you.

Thankfully for IT, getting to the public cloud is easier (and smarter) than ever. Now, in fairness, there are some seemingly legitimate, practical reasons why some people are holding off on the public cloud. Every organization is different, but here are some common threads we’ve seen with IT departments who are waiting:

  • Hardware refresh cycles: these come every 3-5 years, and is generally part of a longer cycle that involves planning for the upcoming years within the context of projected budgets. This can be a hard cycle to break out of, since budgets and needs fluctuate, and existing investments persist.
  • Real-time needs: random events pop up in IT that need immediate action, so additional on-premises hardware investments are made. This happens because its familiar, and usually there is a time sensitivity, so it seems quicker to just buy more of the same hardware and stick it in the data center.
  • Peak Capacity: There are times during the day where users need more computing power, and the most common solution is to simply over-provision. Of course, it is easier to just add a few more server racks in the data center, but it’s also a costly proposition to purchase and maintain all the extra hardware that sits idle for 50% or more of the time.
  • Need more expertise: The cloud may require new skill sets, but any veteran IT person has learned new technologies in the past, and they can do the same for cloud with the right resources (of which there are plenty: books, tutorial videos, hands-on sandbox, etc.). Throughout our careers, we’ve learned new hardware, new software, new scripting languages, new consoles, etc. IT is always evolving, and cloud is no more challenging than previous evolutions. Plus, training IT departments to be cloud savvy helps keep IT staff well versed and up to date with the technologies of the future.
  • Fear of job loss: There is always apprehension about something new and unfamiliar, so traditional IT staff might worry that the cloud could replace their job. The cloud, however, will still need IT staff to manage and maintain workloads, applications, security, etc., and in fact, the increase in IT positions like “cloud architect” or “cloud engineer” and fields like dev/ops, are giving IT veterans a great opportunity to expand their skillsets, roles, and visibility within their organization.

As we mentioned, the reasons above are all completely legitimate and practical. The problem is that hiding beneath that practicality is the reality that quarter by quarter you’re probably doing more harm than good. If things are running smoothly and on budget, though, how could that be? Well, here are just a few reasons why not entering the cloud proactively could spell trouble down the road:

  • Competitive disadvantage: every quarter you wait is a quarter your competitors can make the jump before you. For your competitors, it’ll be uncomfortable at first- change always is- but soon you’ll start seeing competitors find their groove in the cloud. And with that, they’ll have significant advantages over anyone who hasn’t gotten comfortable with the cloud yet. For example, they could be realizing 25% cost savings (by avoiding the cost of managing and maintaining over-provisioned on-prem hardware) and a 40% increase in R&D cycles (due to increased agility and shorter dev cycles). That means their releases are that much better, faster and cheaper each time around than yours, which will slowly erode your business.
  • Internal pressure: If your competitors do get a leg up on you because they made a quicker jump to the cloud, you can expect your management team to notice. This will turn a cloud project that could have been proactive and controlled into something more akin to a reactive fire drill. They’ll want to be in the cloud ASAP to catch your competitor, which means other projects get abruptly cancelled and proper planning won’t be able to take place. You’ll end up with a cloud mess that’ll be 2-3 times harder to get running smoothly.
  • Shadow IT: There are probably people in your IT department already using the public cloud- whether it’s been sanctioned by management or not. This phenomenon, known as Shadow IT, happens when people can’t accomplish their goals through what IT has currently implemented, so they go around IT rules and systems to get things done. You’ll end up with multiple, unsanctioned ad hoc cloud deployments that are not only beyond your control, but can put your organization at security and compliance risk. Over time, they’ll become the norm, and they’ll be that much harder to uproot when a real plan gets put together.
  • Locked-in capacity: Your on-premises data center is static. This means you’ve got to over-provision your data center for “peak cases”, which results in a lot of on-prem servers sitting idly by waiting for people or processes to need them at peak times. This is a poor use of capital expense to buy the hardware and operating expense to manage it, all of which you could use much more effectively if you had a robust cloud operation.

At this point, there is no reason—strategic nor tactical—to wait, and in fact, the market at large isn’t. In 2016, public cloud will have grown by 17.2% and IaaS by 42.8%, with CIO’s listing it as their #1 tech initiative. One reason for the surge in proactive interest is that early cloud adopters are seeing their investments start to return huge benefits, and competitors are getting nervous:

  • Slack can dynamically add capacity in 30 seconds
  • Dow Jones increased production velocity by 30%
  • Philips rapidly analyzed 15 Petabytes (Petabytes!!) of patient data
  • FINRA saves $20M annually

With early adopters now capitalizing on the benefits of cloud, the risk to bystanders grows with every quarter of complacency. The time for cloud is now. And, the good news for late starters, is that the ease of getting to the cloud are significantly easier with the introduction of streaming-based migration technologies. These technologies provide some huge advantages over their replication-based counterparts, things like:

Streaming-based migration is everyone’s ticket into the cloud. So, as Jan said, “there are always a million reasons not to do something”? Well, it’s time to cross those million reasons off. It’s time to start your cloud journey. Today.

Tom Nikl
Tom Nikl
Tom has spent twelve years leading product management and product marketing at technology companies large and small who focus on virtualization and cloud technologies. He currently blogs primarily about cloud migration, with an emphasis on overcoming challenges that companies face getting to the cloud and how to solve them. Prior to enterprise, Tom received a B.S. in Computer Science from San Jose State University. Outside of work he is an unabashed fan of Disney Theme Parks and delicious junk food.