Thoughts on enterprise IT

Dustin Amrhein

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The Pitfalls of Cloud Computing

What does not work when it comes to cloud adoption

There is no shortage of information concerning the ‘right' way to do cloud. Don't believe me? Just google ‘adopting cloud computing' or ‘implementing cloud computing' and prepare to be bombarded with advice. Don't get me wrong. I am not attempting to impugn this kind of material or otherwise demean it. I am simply saying that if you want to read about how to successfully adopt, implement, or otherwise begin to use cloud computing, you have a wealth of information at your disposal.

On the other hand, I doubt you will find as much information on the opposite of cloud success, which is of course, cloud failure. This is to be expected. I mean, we all want to focus on the positives right? Yet, at the same time, it is a little odd since I happen to believe that we learn quite a bit from failure. To me, there is no better lesson than one learned the hard way. With that in mind, allow me to share some first-hand hard lessons from adopting the cloud.

- If you can't standardize, you will fall short: A key tenant of cloud computing is automation. More to the point, cloud gives users the opportunity to completely automate the installation, deployment, and configuration of their application environments. That said it is impossible to achieve high levels of automation without a fairly high degree of standardization. For automation to work there has to be well-known bounds within which environments will reside. If you cannot drive a culture of standardization (one where not every request is a ‘custom' request), then you will find automation to be fairly difficult. Without the clear benefits of automation, many in your organization may be left scratching their heads about the real value of cloud.

- If change is taboo, look out: Einstein is well-known to have said that ‘Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.' In this context, I am consistently amazed by users that want to adopt cloud computing, but are EXTREMELY hesitant to change anything about what they do now. Guess what? This rarely works. If you want to start leveraging cloud concepts, you must be ready for change. This may be change to processes, organization, culture, or any number of things. If you can't or won't change, then you will struggle with cloud computing.

- No integration means no joy: I am of the opinion that the best cloud approach is one that does not subscribe to the ‘one tool to rule them all' mantra. Instead, I encourage users to consider the tools best-suited to tackle their most valuable use cases, while keeping in mind the integration capabilities of the various tools. If you find yourself looking at a tool that provides no means for integration into various other points within your enterprise, do yourself a favor and just stop! Nothing good can come of an impenetrable black box.

- Piece-meal automation will fall short: Not to belabor the point, but automation is a pretty big deal when it comes to cloud computing. After all, it is a big reason why cloud promises both speed and consistency of service delivery. However, if you find yourself looking into a solution or approach that means adding just a little automation here and there to an otherwise heavily user-driven approach, turn and run! Sprinkling automation around like pixy dust rarely results in magic. In fact, it usually turns out to be counter-productive. To be clear, I am not saying that everything has to be 100% automated for cloud to work. That is not realistic in the least, but wedging a little automation in between mostly manual processes is not helpful either.

I realize that the above may make you think that I am not an overly positive person, especially when it comes to cloud adoption. That could not be further from the truth. I would say that I am cautiously optimistic and eager to understand both what does and does not work. Luckily enough, I have been part of more than a few cloud adoption projects, and I have seen both the good and the bad. I hope that passing along some of my view points is helpful, and I am always eager to learn more from my readers. Feel free to pass along your own experiences and feedback!

More Stories By Dustin Amrhein

Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, he worked on the development of Web services infrastructure and Web services programming models. In his current role, Dustin is a technical specialist for cloud, mobile, and data grid technology in IBM's WebSphere portfolio. He blogs at http://dustinamrhein.ulitzer.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/damrhein.