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What Does Enterprise IT Really Want from Cloud Computing?

IT managers are serious about testing the cloud today

Cloud Expo 2010

Analysts, bloggers and mainstream media have spent 2009 promoting cloud computing as “the next big thing” that will revolutionize the way companies buy and use computing power.

But beyond the hype and the C-level interest in an exciting trend, there’s value to the cloud that appeals to the pragmatic, “show me” nature of enterprise IT.

The two main drivers for cloud computing are the same ones that have always motivated enterprise IT: save money (do more with less) and be more responsive to business needs. These goals are typically in conflict with each other, so that in tough times the first takes precedence and in boom times the second one does.

The cloud offers the promise of being able to do both, which is why it so attractive to the CIO and IT managers. The cloud potentially lets you offload from your expensive internal infrastructure and scale up/down/out as needed. Developers and SMBs may have started the cloud revolution, but the real transformation will be in enterprise IT, where the demand for computing resources is constantly changing and evolving — across seasons and application lifecycles, sometimes even during the course of a day. Rather than investing in capital equipment that may sit idle much of the time, the cloud model provides an attractive alternative, both for users who need computing power not available internally and IT departments trying to watch their budgets.

Today enterprises are trying to figure out how to leverage the cloud in a way that makes sense. It can be somewhat scary in these early days, as issues around security, control and integration are still being debated. What does it take to change the mindset from “we can’t do that” to “let’s try it”? What does enterprise IT need to have the confidence to get started in the cloud?

What IT really wants is to get access to this potential great resource, but to do so in a very low-risk, walk-before-you-run way. This means putting a limited, usually small, footprint into the cloud initially. It also means focusing on applications that are by definition separable from the data center, and probably not core to the business.  For example, most of our early customers are putting development, test, business continuity and back-office applications into the cloud first, and thinking about how they will add the next set of apps and/or scale out the original ones if things go well.

IT also wants protection in case the cloud reality takes longer to deliver than the hype suggests. They want to be able to bring their apps back to the data center, or potentially to switch clouds if a better set of offerings comes along. As a result they don’t want to do a lot of work changing what they have today for a specific cloud or re-architecting their applications or internal processes.

Most of all, enterprise IT is looking beyond the hype and saying “show me how this could work in my environment.” They want results they can trust showing how the cloud can provide flexibility and cost savings that their internal data center can’t deliver alone – so they can make the case for embracing the cloud in a more meaningful way. So while IT managers are certainly reading the blogs and analyst reports about the future of the cloud, they’re serious about testing the cloud today, and pushing vendors to make the cloud work for fundamental enterprise needs.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.

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