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