Do IT professionals still have their heads in the clouds?

Do IT professionals still have their heads in the clouds?

Friday, November 11, 2011 | Dan Blacharski

According to a survey of IT professionals, yes, they do. At this point in the evolution of the increasingly pervasive dotcloud boom, the discussion has changed from whether to move to the cloud, to how to implement the cloud. Among those CTOs surveyed, scalability, elasticity, and the need to accommodate fluctuating demand for resources were the biggest reasons for deploying the cloud, and when considering cloud-based storage, savings on hardware weighed heavily in the list of deciding factors. Indeed, the rapid move to the cloud is accompanied by the inevitable complexity of both infrastructure and application layers, and, according to Diego Lomanto, Director of Product Marketing at OpTier, "Gaining complete visibility and control over end-to-end business services anywhere, and any time is critical for cloud adoption." Lomanto recommends leveraging a transaction management solution to help with planning the move to the cloud.

The reasons often mentioned for moving to the cloud are evident in the  survey, reinforcing the oft-cited reasons such as cost savings, flexibility and scalability, and faster deployment. In fact, among public companies - which tend to be larger and a bit more bureaucratic - the advantage of faster deployment was the most popular benefit. And of course, the decision to move to the cloud is strategic and calls for a deep analysis of which applications are best suited for the cloud environment. By analysing items such as the Apdex score, volume utilisation, bandwidth usage, and J2EE dependencies, one can more easily define which applications to move to the cloud first.

But now that we know the reasons behind it, what is holding some companies back? There are three factors at play. The greatest challenge involved is security, with 36 percent of respondents saying that security presented a major roadblock; followed by concerns over monitoring. Systems management is also a concern, and just over half of those surveyed said there was a gap between their current systems management tools and what they would need to adequately manage and monitor their cloud environments. On the latter point, that is not to say that the management tools don't exist, because they certainly do, and they are robust and full-featured. Many traditional management tools however, aren't built to handle mapping virtualised environments, but new companies are moving in quickly to fill this gap. Tools such as OpTier for example, help in mapping a virtualised cloud infrastructure promoting greater visibility and performance insight.

About 20 percent of respondents also said that regulatory compliance issues are another factor in preventing a move to the cloud, though in reality, in most cases those regulatory concerns can be assuaged simply by ensuring that the cloud provider's data centre is compliant with the appropriate laws governing your industry.

The survey also indicated that the "third leg" of the cloud, platform-as-a-service (PaaS),  is also gaining ground, with 47 percent of cloud users deploying a PaaS offering. PaaS tools like Virtual Global's TeamHost for example, provide a toolkit for both developing and deploying business apps on the cloud. More of these cloud and cloud support tools are being built on open source software, an advantage that does give companies the extra advantage of being able to customise as needed, and own the source code. The survey showed that usage of open source is common in cloud users, with 69 percent using open source whenever possible, especially at the government level. And whilst virtualisation does not necessarily equate to the cloud, nonetheless 77 percent of IT professionals use virtualisation, with the majority using VMware.

A granular definition of the cloud, its benefits, the potential obstacles and the details of how to implement it continues to evolve, and continues to be essential in understanding what factors go into the decision making process. 
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