Is this report on cloud fears in the enterprise justified or overblown?

The most tempting of titles for this industry report, but is it justified? In my view, not so much

trust fear sign cloud

It's always interesting to see a vendor use a piece of sponsored research to justify their market positioning. That's what iLand is doing with a new study conducted by Forrester, but let's take a look to see how valid the conclusions from the report are.

The study, entitled "Is Your Cloud Provider Keeping Secrets?" aims to showcase the lessons learned from experienced cloud infrastructure customers. The survey assessed 275 IT decision makers across the U.S., the UK, and Singapore.

In making my slightly skeptical comments about vendor-sponsored surveys, I was cognizant of the business is iLand is in. The company is a data center provider that sells its services to large enterprises. A committed VMware and Cisco service provider, iLand packages up technologies from these two vendors (alongside others such as Zerto and Veeam) and offers them to enterprise customers with a layer of service and support on top. As such, iLand is very much in the business of differentiating its "concierge" cloud service from the more bare-bones services offered by cloud vendors such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. iLand offers both infrastructure and disaster recovery offerings, as well as some associated storage offerings.

So, what did the survey highlight? According to respondents, enterprises are worried, and with valid reason, about the safety of the data they store with cloud vendors. One-hundred percent of respondents said they have suffered financial or operational impacts due to missing or hidden metadata. iLand goes further to accuse the large cloud vendors of implementing "deeply flawed customer support models."

"Buried in the complexities of today's clouds are crippling hazards," said Lilac Schoenbeck, iland's VP of product management and marketing. "Critical metadata is withheld, seriously dampening cloud growth, yet all the while, businesses are building growth plans based on an assumption of infinite cloud resources. This threat could take us back to the days of bargaining for your IT resources—a result that neither IT nor the business is prepared to face."

I spent time talking to Schoenbeck about this and she pointed to the fact that often information about the performance, configuration, and operations of each cloud workload isn't clearly available to customers from the cloud vendors. She went on to point out that all of this rich metadata is, obviously, available to cloud vendors who leverage it to deliver new products and services to customers. The inference being that cloud vendors are profiting from the very data their customers create.

According to the report, more than 60% report they cannot grow their cloud footprint due to associated transparency, compliance and support issues. Into this apparent hole of customer unhappiness comes iLand, "While smaller than the big box cloud providers, iland's unique market position enables us to be innovative, using Big Data to deliver transparency, and nimble, addressing customer needs like those illuminated in the survey with rapid product development," said Justin Giardina, chief technology officer at iland.

Key findings from the survey include the facts that:

  • Overall, cloud customer satisfaction is low, with a strong sentiment that providers do not respond to their users' needs. Over 50% of cloud customers report their provider does not understand their company's needs or care about their success.
  • Lack of cloud metadata can drive up costs— and take down systems. One-hundred percent of respondents said they suffered one or more negative impacts due to lack of transparency, ranging from performance problems or outages (43%) to unexpected bills (36%).
  • Without critical data, compliance safeguards may fail. Compliance practices act as a proxy for safeguarding customer data, and 72% of respondents were bound by compliance requirements.
  • Inadequate support issues begin at onboarding and persist. The transition to cloud often requires advice and support from cloud providers. However, 51% of companies surveyed were not satisfied with their onboarding process, reporting it took too long (26%) or lacked human support (21%).

Helpfully, Forrester, the organization that ran the survey, comes up with some advice for customers. Forrester suggests customers should:

  • Get the performance, security and billing data you need to maintain stability and control costs.
  • Evaluate the native tools delivered by the cloud platform to ensure they deliver visibility, alerting and analytics.
  • Demand clarity about compliance data, on-call experts and straightforward processes from your cloud provider.
  • Look for a cloud with onboarding and support teams staffed by experts who know who you are and who pick up the phone.

MyPOV

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly customers who are well serviced by the sort of curated and white-gloved product offerings from a vendor like iLand. Not every organization is as cutting-edge as Netflix, and for more traditional customers, a full-service technology partner like iLand is valuable.

That said, this survey feels like a blatant piece of fear mongering. If we look at the concerns around visibility of metadata, we can see that these things are getting easier. Amazon, for example, offers pretty comprehensive information about customers' spending and usage patterns. If that wasn't enough, there are a number of third-party vendors that offer platforms to deal with spend management, monitoring, and infrastructure management in the cloud. Sure, it means that customers will use multiple providers, but at the end of the day, the risks that this report highlighted are illusory at best.

The report also seems to conveniently ignore that a huge number of large customers are deeply invested (and happy with their investment) in the cloud. The way this report is pitched makes one feel that most every organization lies awake at night in trepidation about these so-called risks. That isn't the case, and time spent with large customers anywhere in the world will show that, for the most part, they are happy with what their cloud provider offers them. Sure, there are always areas for improvement, but all in all I think iLand is moving in an unhelpful direction with this report.

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