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Be Clear about the Cloud

As the dominant IT paradigm continues to shift, companies need to manage critical components of the migration.

More broadly, that same buy-only-what-you-need model can enable CFOs to greenlight more new projects. At a time when capex spending has been slashed, the option to incur modest IT costs in the form of operating expenses may be enough to nudge the needle to the “approved” side of the gauge.

Spread the Wealth

For many years, companies have looked to consolidate their IT expenditures with a few key business partners as a way to cut better deals and have the proverbial “one throat to choke” in case something goes wrong. While it’s a certainty that vendors will make the same one-stop-shop sales pitch as they offer an expanding array of cloud services, companies should think carefully about relying too heavily on just one vendor, particularly when it comes to core data-center services.

Outsourcing all or most computing processes to a single supplier can cause assorted problems, says chief Gartner fellow Daryl Plummer. For one thing, if there is an outage, all of your workloads will be down at once. For another, providers have different levels of competency in different services, like storage or database management; picking just one means you often won’t have the “best-of-breed” solution for a particular need. And, while having a single provider may promise a better deal in the form of a volume discount, it can just as easily rob you of negotiating leverage in this burgeoning field.

While interoperability issues have led some companies to limit the number of cloud providers they use, the rise of a class of intermediary firms, which Gartner calls “cloud-services brokerages,” is mitigating that concern. Like traditional systems integrators, the firms provide integration and customization services to make disparate cloud applications work together efficiently.

Tapping these firms may, in fact, emerge as a cloud best practice. In any event, expect to hear much more about them. Plummer, noting that “the accessories market always makes more money than the original-equipment market,” says the brokerages are sitting on “the largest growth opportunity in cloud computing, by far.”

Do a Test Run

When developing applications in-house for future deployment to the cloud, don’t miss the opportunity to quickly create working prototypes using cloud-based platforms.

A prototype doesn’t have to be production-ready to provide valuable insight into how the full-blown application will work. You can even create multiple versions to gauge how each performs and how quickly it can be executed and implemented.

It’s the cloud era’s version of a PowerPoint presentation: a step-by-step mock-up that can demonstrate what an application being developed in-house will ultimately look like. “With a prototype, you’ll have something more useful for making decisions,” says Mark Koenig, director of cloud strategy for Appirio, one of the cloud-services brokerages.

Get Ready for Change

A broad move to the cloud may present some change-management challenges, particularly in your IT department, as the mix of roles and responsibilities may change dramatically. A conventional IT department is populated with many people who keep servers and networks running, manage applications, and support users. As more of that works shifts to the cloud, IT needs to focus on contracting with vendors and managing service-level agreements.

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