Simplicity: Cloud's Hidden Value Proposition

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As hype around cloud begins to settle into more realistic proportions, the industry as a whole is doing some soul-searching. Are we finding the cost savings and improved agility that we expected? As I’ve observed before, it’s time to see ROI.

Cloud Computing News recently reported on a KPMG survey that shows a certain satisfaction; about 70% of professional IT respondents claim some improved efficiency from their cloud efforts.

That’s good.

However, I detect restlessness in the air. The lead KPMG researcher, Rick Wright, comments that “the greatest cost savings – and, more importantly, the transformational business benefits – will come from the longer-term outcomes, such as more efficient processes, more flexible operating models and faster entry into new markets and geographies.” Notice the claim that payoff will be visible against far horizons. This has been the story for cloud since its inception, and it’s beginning to look a bit illusory. James Bourne, author of the CCN write-up, concludes his analysis with this searching question: Should companies have been taking a more strategic approach to cloud long ago?


Cloud is a strategy, not a get-rich-quick scheme.

But I think even companies that invest in cloud for the long haul, understanding the timetable of the payback, may be failing to see the full picture. Cloud has an emotional pull that goes beyond dollar signs. We may justify it with an ROI analysis, but we want it for another reason, as well:

Cloud promises simplicity.

In the pell-mell world of rapid tech evolution, churning hardware, and logistical distractions, cloud says, “Abstract away all the complexity and get back to the business problems that really excite your passion.” That is a compelling offer, and it has value quite apart from finances. I suspect that it figures heavily in the emotional calculus, even if we often fail to acknowledge it.

Ironically, most cloud providers fail to deliver on this aspect of cloud’s promise, especially in private cloud. Anybody who has installed and configured the infrastructure required to run a private cloud understands this in spades. The toolset is overwhelming: hypervisors, orchestration, switches, firewalls, DNS, DHCP, IPMI, SSO and SAML, ISCSI, SANs, NASes, tape libraries, heartbeat, replication, load balancers, LDAP, CMDBs, intrusion detection, endpoint compliance, and dozens of other components. Wade through it all, get everything just right, and then throw up your hands in despair when you have to perform mass migrations to accommodate new hardware, scheduled maintenance, or new SLAs.

This is why I’m a big believer in the promise of policy-driven workload optimization. If we want to achieve cloud’s promise of simplicity, something besides human sweat needs to monitor and react to changing conditions. I predict that best-of-breed tools like Adaptive’s Moab Cloud Suite, which have intelligent policy at their core, will become more and more valuable as industry puts a name to the phantom ingredient whose absence makes today’s clouds bland and unexciting.

Image credit: Alan O’Rourke (Flickr)

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