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Larry Carvalho

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Integrated Systems and Enterprise Cloud Adoption

Why is enterprise cloud adoption spotty?

Why is it that cloud computing is maturing but adoption is lagging? This transformational approach has huge potential but compared to the buzz surrounding it, enterprises are just taking baby steps towards widespread adoption. When invited by IBM to do a tweet chat on “Accelerating the Adoption of Cloud”, I liked the opportunity because of the widespread discussion around it as well as controversial enterprise adoption efforts made by “Shadow IT”, a common term used for folks who bypass corporate IT to start their own cloud initiatives.

Another aspect of this tweet chat was that it was centered about integrated systems, another transformational technology destined to change enterprise IT initiatives. Similar systems have been around since IBM made a big bet on the System 360 mainframe family in the 60's.  What we're seeing today is a higher level of integration that tightly links systems, storage and networking, bringing greater visibility across key aspects of an IT infrastructure Enterprise vendors now notice that iPods, iPads and iPhones, featuring a combined hardware and software stack with significant profit margins for Apple, and we are starting to this business model being applied to the enterprise space.

Microsoft recently announced their tablet offering built with their own hardware.  Cisco, HP, IBM and Oracle all have come up with integrated systems built for the enterprise.  IBM has made a big bet on PureSystems as an expert integrated system that is leading a lot of enterprises to consider it as part of their tool set while evolving their IT investments to meet future needs. Enterprise customers like to procure IT solutions that target their biggest pain points before adoption of a new technology.  They like to lower risk as well as allow them to take into consideration investments made in legacy applications, before taking a leap into new technology.  All these factors make integrated systems a viable option that enterprises cannot afford to ignore.

“Lack of skills” was an obstacle to new technology adoption that came up on the tweet chat.  But while skills are important, there is also a need to understand the value of innovation while contemplating transformational changes. Currently IT change to adopt cloud computing is hard to plan for and implement because of extreme risk avoidance due to a culture of extreme caution. Skills are needed to make cultural changes in order to accept new measurements of success for IT outcomes that accepts occasional failures.

The major goal for enterprises in adopting integrated systems is improving their existing processes.  What I found as a common goal from a lot of vendors providing integrated systems solutions is to automate those processes while maintaining their quality of service.  Several concepts related to automation including dynamic provisioning, workload awareness and self-optimization were discussed.  Implementation of these concepts into the fabric of an IT organization ultimately leads to business agility that businesses strive for.

When the discussion turned to objections to cloud adoption, common security issues were raised along with risks of vendor lock-in.  Both of these issues seem to play a role at enterprises making the decision to move to cloud.  Security mainly affects enterprises with high value data with significant monetary risk to data loss – especially in the financial sector.  Vendor lock-in seems to be a broad concern given IT organizations’ past bad experiences.  In order to prevent lock-in, enterprises need to test and plan for an exit strategy into alternatives when embarking on cloud initiatives.

Contributing to better automation is development and reuse of common images that can be tailored for current conditions by configuration management, removing the need for manual intervention in IT operations.  For true automation, it is imperative that these reusable assets combine hardware and software into an asset that allows upgrades at a very low risk.

To sum up, integrated systems offer the promise of radically changing current IT environments by bringing in a whole new set of capabilities never available before.  It will take skills to understand the value but when properly implemented can help customers gain significant value.  The IBM PureSystems family of products can speed adoption for enterprises, especially those with existing IT systems based on IBM products.  With the skills shortage, IBM’s challenge will be to recruit adequate business partners so that enterprises will be able to get easy access to skills needed.

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Larry Carvalho runs Robust Cloud LLC, an advisory services company helping various ecosystem players develop a strategy to take advantage of cloud computing. As the 2010-12 Instructor of Cloud Expo's popular Cloud Computing Bootcamp, he has already led the bootcamp in New York, Silicon Valley, and Prague, receiving strong positive feedback from attendees about the value gained at these events. Carvalho has facilitated all-day sessions at customer locations to set a clear roadmap and gain consensus among attendees on strategy and product direction. He has participated in multiple discussion panels focused on cloud computing trends at information technology events, and he has delivered all-day cloud computing training to customers in conjunction with CloudCamps. To date, his role has taken him to clients in three continents.