Cloud News Roundup

CRM is continuing its march to the cloud. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2015, 50% of CRM tools will be hosted in the cloud. By 2025, that number will be 85%. The reasons for move to cloud-based CRM are twofold: flexibility and cost effectiveness.

There’s a lot of talk about the state of the cloud and where it’s going. But do we know where it came from? An article in Wired tries to get to the bottom of this question, digging up a 1994 video from AT&T as evidence that company invented the cloud in the early 90s.

Approaching a cloud services provider can be daunting. This list may help you have a productive conversation with a potential provider. Important questions to ask: what do you want to do with the cloud?; how much do you want to manage?; and what are you best at?  

The cloud you don’t see

“Listen to your users, give them what they need…. A ‘don’t use the cloud’ memo isn’t going to cut it.”

Security is top of mind for most organizations looking to migrate to the cloud, but there’s another threat vector to consider: cloud creep. Even a company with sufficient security protocols in place for its formal cloud services may face exposure from services like Facebook, Dropbox, and Pandora entail.

“Just because you have a positive position on IaaS doesn’t mean you have a sufficient risk posture around off-the-shelf services,” Jason Ha, national manager of security practices for Dimension Data, said.

On average, Ha finds in security audits that companies have six times the cloud exposure they thought they did.

But there’s not an easy solution. Simply blocking access to social media sites may temporarily fix the problem, but it might block legitimate sites, and employees can find workarounds. And there’s no escaping the cloud: even if a company has a “no-cloud” policy in place, the spate of recent data breaches shows the pitfalls of that approach.

So what is a company to do? The first step is to have a cloud policy in place, followed by an effort to deploy approved, monitored applications. It’s not an easy fix, but the key is to stay ahead of the curve and to give your staff options that are within your control.

Cloud news roundup

Dawn Leaf, Deputy CIO at the Labor Department, spoke about her agency’s  recent migration of email and human resource applications to the cloud at the FOSE government technology conference. Leaf said one of the most important aspects of any migration is oversight. “Delegation—and that’s what you’re doing; you’re delegating your authority of your IT services—is not the same as abdication,” she said.

Cloud is emerging as one of tech’s top moneymakers. A recent KPMG survey revealed that 46 percent of technology executives said their cloud revenues in 2013 were above expectations. Meanwhile, D&A (data and analytics) and the Internet of Things are rising fast as top drivers of growth. 

As cloud investment heats up, providers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. The big players are reducing prices; Google plans on lowering cloud service prices by 30 to 85 percent, an announcement that was quickly followed by Amazon and Microsoft announcing plans to slash their prices as well. Other companies are focusing on niche markets, tailoring their services for different industries, or focusing on private clouds. 

Cloud adoption lags down under

Mid-size firms in Australia are falling behind the rest of the world in cloud adoption, says Intel’s managing director in that country, Kate Burleigh. Speaking at a “Momentum for the Mid Market” event, Burleigh said that although smaller companies—those with revenues between $10 million and $250 million—are consuming a lot of technology, they are failing to innovate, which spells trouble for companies wanting to spur growth.

Kevin Ackhurst, Enterprise Google Australia’s managing director, stressed cloud adoption as a key factor in company growth and said companies need to rethink the way they invest in IT. As the nature of IT changes, the conversation needs to be less about budget and more about using technology to meet business needs.

Our survey data shows how US companies are dealing with cloud migration. We’ll be sharing some of those results soon. 

Under the cloud, the fog appears

As use of the cloud continues to expand rapidly, businesses are hitting a bandwidth wall. New smart devices—refrigerators, street lights, cars, and appliances, to name a few—are generating so much data that existing networks can’t communicate with the cloud fast enough.

That’s where the fog comes in.

A column in the Wall Street Journal describes the role of a new computing layer—“the fog”—made up of networks of smart devices across the Internet of Things.

Whereas the cloud is “up there,” and removed from the user’s sight, the fog is ground level, and only communicates with the cloud when it’s necessary—say, when a smart device needs to communicate an emergency. Otherwise, the fog goes about the business of  collecting, storing, and processing data, taking the bandwidth burden off of the cloud.

Cisco and IBM are already experimenting with the fog. Cisco is turning routers into localized data hubs, and IBM is connecting computers in the fog in a sort of miniature, device-based cloud. Until bandwidth capabilities grow enough to handle the massive amount of data generated by the Internet of Things, it may be time for companies to step into the fog. 

Cloud security is your job, too

Data insurance isn’t just about the data itself, it’s about the practice and concerns around it and how you have access to that data.

At FOSE, a conference for the government technology community that wrapped up yesterday,  representatives from Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft discussed the cloud. There were some predictable differences in approaches and priorities, but all agreed that cloud security is a very big deal.

According to the panel, responsibility for cloud security is equally shared between clients and vendors. Vendors are responsible for securing their services, but clients are responsible for creating secure applications and following security protocols and regulation.

This obviously is an important lesson for government agencies moving to the cloud—and for anyone else moving to the cloud. It’s important to vet cloud providers to make sure their practices are secure, but it’s equally important to ensure your own security practices can make the grade.

Mapping cloud migration

You need to focus on the application and the process, regardless of whether it’s a virtual environment or a physical environment from four years ago; the approach is so critical. You have an assessment phase, a planning phase, and a migration phase.

The video below details the ideal path to migration to the cloud. Instead of a leap of faith, it’s wiser to take a staged approach—and to ask the right questions at each stage.

Cloud news roundup

An interview with Miao Song, CIO of the Singapore-based Golden Agri-Resources, discusses her company’s migration to the cloud. One of the biggest benefits? The cloud frees up time so the CIO can be “part of the business, rather than just an IT leader,” Song said.

Hybrid clouds are on the rise, especially for IT systems used by the government. A recent study predicts that the federal government will spend nearly $9 billion on cloud computing by 2017. Additionally, by 2015, 75 percent of large enterprises are expected to have hybrid clouds.

Five reasons cloud skills should be on everyone’s resume. Topping the list: Professional and industry best practices are embedded in cloud services and cloud offers rapid iteration and experimentation abilities. Migrating to the cloud gives you the flexibility and agility to innovate successfully.

Choosing applications for cloud migration

A key element of cloud migration strategy is deciding which applications are suitable for the move. Applications used for software development benefit from the cloud’s scalability, as developers often need significant computing power for short periods of time, while tools designed for collaboration, like email and web conferencing, benefit from the cloud’s anytime, anywhere availability.

Other applications, such as ERP, may present migration challenges, given their high availability requirements and the sensitive data they contain; regulations and security concerns may be a limiting factor.

And poorly designed applications won’t magically be fixed in the cloud. If they consume excess resources, they can end up costing more money than they did in a data center, so it’s important to run an evaluation to determine if legacy apps can take advantage of cloud opportunities.

Study shows rapid cloud adoption growth

The use of cloud services is accelerating rapidly, according to a new study that aggregates real cloud usage data from over 250 companies. A total of 3,571 cloud services are being used by more than 8.3 million users at the subject companies; last quarter, there were 2,675 cloud services identified.

Another finding: The number of services used per organization grew from 759, on average, compared with last quarter’s 626.

An area of concern is a service’s “enterprise readiness,” a measure determined by the study that takes into account factors like data protection, and security features. Only 7% of cloud services were determined to be “enterprise ready,” down from last quarter’s 11%. Disconcerting, especially considering that security concerns are the main barrier to cloud adoption.

The study also found that cloud services are increasingly fragmented—on average an organization is using 24 file-sharing services and 91 collaboration services. Additionally, 18% of companies have at least 1,000 devices accessing a public cloud using Windows XP, an OS Microsoft no longer supports—another potential security risk.

Our own cloud adoption survey is yielding some interesting initial results, and we’ll be reporting on those soon.