What you need to know about cloud computing

Confusion reigns because 'cloud' is a metaphor, not a function you buy


Depending on what surveys you look at people in both business units and IT are either wildly enthusiastic about SAAS and cloud computing, or are desperately confused about how to do it, why they should and what all the noise is about.

As best I can tell from talking to a lot of them, CIOs and IT managers working on cloud projects don't see them all as "cloud" in the same way vendors or analysts do.

Rather than look at SAAS, private cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud all as different animals – which vendors do because it matches their product and service SKUs more closely – end-user companies tend to use several or all of them together, depending on need.

They might virtualize their internal servers to save money on physical servers and add some cloud software on top to make even more efficient use of internal resources.

They might hire an external cloud provider for additional compute capacity to meet seasonal spikes in demand, to provide a place for short-term projects or de facto DMZ to help link business partners without the additional work or risk of linking them directly into the core data center.

Business unit managers – who buy so many SAAS contracts that far more big companies are running "cloud" applications than even top IT people think is the case – often don't think of SAAS apps like Salesforce as anything that would interest IT, or even as being part of the "cloud."

Cloudishness is a big factor – about the same as the OS a system supports – but not the only one involved.

SAAS portfolios

Many companies, whether purposely or not, end up with badly managed or completely unmanaged portfolios of SAAS applications, often wasting money by buying the same function twice from the same vendor for different departments, or buying something new that IT already bought for them.

Business-unit managers won't stop buying SAAS apps without consulting IT. It's too easy to get exactly the functions they want without having to wait for internal developers or compromise on features with other departments that don't want quite the same thing, or on quite the same schedule.

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