Three Considerations for Cloud Adoption in 2011

Why are IT departments turning to cloud computing rather than its alternatives and what makes the technology so compelling?

By Jay Gardner, President and General Manager, NetIQ

In 2010, cloud computing was a hot topic of discussion. Few companies, however, are moving into full-scale adoption, and in 2011, I expect to see a greater transition to cloud computing driven by:

  • A conglomeration of platforms -- both "traditional" and "virtual"
  • Provisioning challenges
  • Security incidents stemming from internal and external threats, and
  • Challenges to satisfy compliance regulatory, audit, and industry standards

Why are IT departments turning to cloud computing rather than its alternatives? What makes cloud computing so compelling?

IT Realities and Constraints

In an environment that requires IT to do more with less, address physical data center and energy constraints, and manage SLAs with frozen or shrinking budgets, cloud computing is a compelling proposition. It's particularly appealing for enterprises facing a lack of in-house resources to implement, manage, and support applications as well as a shortage of physical space, capacity, and power sources. Cloud computing offers an attractive, pay-as-you-go pricing model that is more scalable and promises lower risk. Furthermore, IT is facing departmental adoption of "cool" applications, such as Salesforce.com, whose strong uptake likely has less to do with the fact that it is hosted in the cloud and more due to salespeoples' frustration with poorly designed, complex, legacy applications.

With more application decisions being made outside of IT by individual departments, central IT is put in the position to facilitate the adoption of cloud-based applications and manage them accordingly.

Choice and Flexibility

Cloud adoption is not a forklift overhaul. Instead, it is an incremental approach that combines on-premise infrastructure and software -- and in particular, virtualization technology, which provides a basis for adopting cloud computing -- with SaaS offerings. This combination gives IT organizations a broader scope of choices to consider, so they can ultimately determine which aspects of their computing environment can be leveraged through a cloud-based model.

Although forward-thinking organizations recognize that cloud computing can provide considerable business benefits, it is important to point out that the proper tools and processes are still required to monitor, manage, respond, and recover. With that in mind, what should IT be considering and what does it need to consider?

Consideration #1: Integration and Automation

As key services and applications move to the cloud, the way that information is stored, passed, and shared across people and applications will transform. Therefore, CIOs will find that integration of data, applications, and automation of processes is an important issue to solve. Watch for process automation and data or application integration tools to play a very critical role in efficient and effective cloud adoption. Finding ways to automate processes in order to manage consistency in a complex world of data, applications, and users will result in cost savings if executed properly.

Consideration #2: Security

Security, governance of process, and compliance to government, industry, and corporate regulations and guidelines will remain ongoing initiatives. Data breaches will continue to be highly visible and will quickly become public knowledge. IT organizations must push cloud providers to ensure cloud infrastructure and operations are as secure -- if not more secure -- than traditional on-premise approaches to protect corporate data and critical systems.

Consideration #3: Identity Management

Managing the identity of users as well as provisioning and de-provisioning their rights become a greater task within the cloud. It becomes more difficult to discern who is authorized to do what. Moreover, monitoring, responding, reacting, and recovering when someone violates policy is more challenging when applications and data are spread across the cloud. IT organizations will need to either extend existing identity management initiatives to include the cloud or establish a process to collectively manage identities across all systems to best protect corporate data and systems.

The hype around cloud computing causes everyone to want to talk about it. As companies move into more real consideration and adoption, however, enablement in and governance for the cloud are real planning topics for IT organizations. The entire enterprise -- not just IT -- will view computing as a shifting paradigm but with the same -- and maybe even increasingly complex -- issues to address around integration, security and identity.

Jay Gardner is the president and general manager of NetIQ, a company that specializes in managing security and compliance, identity and access, and performance and availability. You can contact the author at Jay.Gardner@NetIQ.com.