Cloud computing claims a pivotal role in 2015

Not yet dominating enterprise IT, but progressing at a steady rate, cloud continues its ascent next year.

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Cloud adoption does continue to be stymied by security concerns, highly customized software and the complexity of systems, he says, but companies see cloud computing as offering too many benefits to resist. As a result, the real issue moving forward is how to harness those benefits to enable transformation.

Holger Mueller, analyst, Constellation Research [2014]

Holger Mueller

“As we move more into digital transformation, the real challenge is the lack of best practices. Companies that can develop best practices on how to harness these new cloud-based technologies will differentiate themselves in the market,” Mueller says.

Toward that end, IT leaders are now seeing cloud as a philosophy, a transformative paradigm that shapes how they structure their IT shops to increase the value they bring to their organizations.

“A lot of people look at cloud as just a technology, but we look at it as much deeper than a technology. Cloud is an operating model for IT and our business. We’re really looking to transform [how we operate],” says Chris Drumgoole, who is chief operating officer for IT at General Electric and is leading the Fairfield, Conn.-based company’s cloud transformation.

He does concede that there are cases where applications running on servers located in GE facilities — truly on-premises solutions — will continue to make sense. As an example, he points to a data analysis tool used by GE’s jet engine testing operation; the application collects terabytes of data per minute, and it would be costly to transmit a data stream of that magnitude to off-site systems.

But Drumgoole says other business functions that currently require on-premises systems for other reasons — complexity, perhaps, or lingering concerns about security and availability — will one day migrate to the cloud, too.

Tackling apps that are tougher to move

Over the past few years GE has moved to a public-cloud-first mentality, Drumgoole says, and that philosophy picked up steam in the past 12 to 18 months.

“Our choice is almost always public first, because we think the world will end up in a public cloud model. But we aren’t quite there yet, so we have some internal and hybrid solutions,” Drumgoole says.

Customized off-the-shelf software tools are among the most challenging systems to move, he says. Not surprisingly, it’s easiest to apply the cloud-first philosophy to brand-new applications, where there are no migration issues.

But even though entrenched systems are harder to move, migrating pays off in more ways than one. First, a migration produces the oft-cited benefits of cloud computing: the access, agility and flexibility that make it possible to scale up and down easily and deliver new functionality to users quickly. But a move to the cloud also creates an opportunity to assess your IT infrastructure and streamline operations.

“It gives us an opportunity to look at the applications. So we might find that there are things we don’t need,” Drumgoole says, noting that his team has already decommissioned and combined a number of systems.

And such benefits fuel further movement toward the cloud.

“The benefit here is much deeper than saving dollars in IT,” he explains. “It’s really around transforming how you think about applications and technology. That’s why we’re doing this.”

This story, "Cloud computing claims a pivotal role in 2015" was originally published by Computerworld.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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