In The Cloud?

We’ve been hearing about the promise of cloud computing for some
time. There are finally enough companies that have used the cloud to
have experienced the reality of cloud computing and learned some
interesting lessons.

So, recently, at its March monthly dinner meeting, the local chapter of the national association of CIOs (SIM) had a panel of IT executives discuss the migration to the cloud:

  • Len Peters, the University Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice President at Yale University
  • Larry Biagini recently retired as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of GE
  • Jeff Pinals, Senior IT Manager for Enterprise Financial & HR Applications at XL Catlin
  • John Hill, COO of Virtustream, with responsibility for Cloud Platform Delivery and Global Data Center Operations.

moderated the panel.  Since there’s been so much written on this
subject, I’ll just focus on three revealing, yet not widely reported,


There has been obvious
concern about security in the cloud, especially when a large amount of
data is held off premises.  Larry Biagini pointed out that those
security issues are already shared with enterprises that do not use the

The old security moat around the enterprise is not a
modern defense in a world in which all computers are effectively
connected to each other and both employees and even trusted customers
are executing transactions through their personal devices.  A more
intelligent approach to security prepares the enterprise for its
migration to the cloud – whether it be the public cloud or a cloud that
someone thinks is private or hybrid.


The Cloud Project

Some panelists described the
process they used to select a cloud vendor and migrate to cloud
computing.  The tendency was initially to think that the whole story was
about following the usual steps in any IT project.  But Jeff Pinals
pointed out that migrating to the cloud is more than just another IT
project.  A good example is understanding how cloud computing will may
have an uncomfortable challenge from the organization’s culture – and
planning to address that issue.  Specifically, even in or perhaps
especially in companies with the best IT shops, non-IT managers are used
to a high degree of flexibility and accommodation to all sorts of
customizations.  That’s less likely to happen with cloud computing where
a SaaS (software-as-a-service) vendor cannot efficiently run the
operation by being so accommodating.

Return From The Cloud

cloud computing is still a new experience for some companies, already
the question has been raised as to where this leaves an enterprise once
they’ve made the move.  The issue was highlighted by the news just
before this panel spoke that, after using Amazon Web services since it
started many years ago, Dropbox was leaving the Amazon cloud and
creating its own network and data centers.  See, for example, “Why Dropbox dropped Amazon’s cloud
published the day of our meeting.  It’s worth noting that even with the
large resources and technical talent of Dropbox, it took them more than
two years to make this re-migration from the cloud.

The panelists
indicated that there may be several reasons why moving or dropping out
of some other company’s cloud service would be desirable.  Perhaps it is
a competitor or potential competitor.  Perhaps its service wasn’t what
was expected and the decision makers were so burned by the experience
that cloud computing is off the table for now.

In Dropbox’s case,
perhaps the company is just sizable enough that the value added and
extra cost of using a cloud computing vendor no longer made financial

Whatever the reasons, after a couple of years, an
enterprise’s IT staff will also have migrated to a different set of
skills when someone else is handling the data center and related
operations.  The panelists noted that loss of data center skills may be
irreversible, at worst, or cost an enormous amount of money to rebuild,
at best.

John Hill ended this discussion that the move to cloud
computing requires a change in orientation about this loss.  Referring
to another utility we take for granted, he asked: Do you generate your
own electricity? Do you know how?

We need to realize that the
benefits of cloud computing have consequences.  Trying to return from
the migration is a bit like coming back out of the real clouds without a
parachute 🙂


© 2016 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved


Is County Innovation An Oxymoron?

Last Friday, the National Association of Counties held an Innovation Summit as part of their annual meeting in Ft. Worth.  I was asked to give the keynote speech on what local government leaders can do to encourage innovation in their counties, but I also attended the other discussions.

As I listened, in the back of my mind were recent articles about the increasingly important role local government can play – in the face of a dysfunctional Federal government and the global connectivity that enables local governments to work together and provide better services.

So the first question is whether these county governments can step up to the challenge, or as the title of this post puts it: Is County Innovation An Oxymoron?

While certainly not all of them are innovating, it is striking how many are.  Because so little is reported about local government innovation and there is not an active peer network among these innovators once they leave their annual meeting, the counties often don’t know what each has done.  That, of course, limits the spread of these innovations.

But that will change.  The counties are about to create a peer-to-peer online community, thanks to Bert Jarreau, NACo’s Chief Innovation Officer.  

Moreover, the cost of computer technology and networks is going down and becoming more widespread, which is great for counties with smaller budgets, who want to innovate, but have felt they didn’t have the money and staff skills to do so.

With “cloud computing”, where all kinds of software, hardware resources and data is available on the Internet, these counties don’t need to buy their own expensive equipment or hire large numbers if IT experts.  Instead, they can pay for what they use.

With many of their employees already owning smart phones and tablets, these counties can get access to mobile apps.  Since people have already figured out how to use apps on these devices, training is simple.  And software in the app market often costs dramatically less than traditional software. 

With videoconferencing, social media and other collaboration tools, it is also possible for these county innovators to support and help each other at any time.

These three big trends – widespread technology, cloud computing and mobile devices – may seem familiar to those in the IT industry.  But the reality is that this combination is relatively recent and still maturing.

All in all, however, this adds up to an unprecedented potential for innovation in local government.  It just needs the right platform and the people who will act as a catalyst for that potential to be realized.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis