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Network World -
At this point in the evolution of cloud computing, the public cloud is probably not IT's first choice when it comes to core enterprise workloads. But there's still a place for public cloud services, and it's up to IT to determine what that is.
Standing pat or ignoring the cloud isn't going to cut it, especially when application developers and groups running specific business apps are moving to the cloud, with or without IT knowledge and approval.
"We've all heard anecdotally that there's a lot of cloud going on at companies that IT doesn't know about, but can find through procurement or by going through people's expense reports," says John Barnes, CTO at Model Metrics, a cloud services firm that helps companies with their Amazon, Google and Salesforce.com deployments.
At one time, Barnes says, it was quite possible for Model Metrics to roll out Salesforce.com for a company without IT ever knowing. But that's changing, as "CIOs want to take control and put their stake in the ground," he says.
But first, CIOs need to get more comfortable with the different types of public cloud services available, to understand the differences and then figure out how each can best supplement what IT already is doing internally, experts say.
A public cloud service can provide a cost-effective, no-hassle introduction to a business service that's currently missing in an IT portfolio, provide an alternative when an outdated app needs a refresh, and provide extra compute, storage or development capacity when needed.
Enterprise IT executives are starting to take advantage of software-as-a-service (SaaS), for example, to clear out their application backlogs, Barnes says.
"Instead of being the roadblock and having the business upset with them, they're looking at that backlog and their road map and picking point SaaS providers for the applications it doesn't make sense for them to do internally, like e-discovery or time and expenses," he says.
"Even if you're going down a private cloud route, you can pick off things that aren't core to the business, buy a nice SaaS offering, and meet some people's needs," he adds.
For larger enterprises, the public cloud's appeal is "at the edge," providing an entry point to new services or a refresh for the old, agrees Mark White, CTO for Deloitte Consulting's technology practice. Analytics, e-mail and sales force automation are increasingly popular public cloud starting points for larger enterprises, White says.
On the other hand, small and midsize companies are approaching public cloud services on a more all-out basis, he adds.
Research from IDC bears this out.
"When we look at the industries that are using the public cloud, most of the companies therein don't have enormous investment in applications or infrastructure already. So they tend to be smaller, midsize companies and the verticals that are either late adopters to new technologies or that don't necessarily have the margins to reinvest in larger platforms. They've been paper-based, and slow to move, and don't have so many security or regulatory concerns," says Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, program manager for Services Vertical Views research at IDC, which recently released its revenue forecast for U.S. public IT cloud services through 2014.