While 2013 might have seemed like the year of the cloud, beneath the surface, the situation was actually more complicated. More companies came online and started to use cloud technology, but many of them still held the cloud at arm's length. However, this year is likely to see that start changing and to see users -- rather than providers -- defining the nature of cloud computing.
For all of the cloud's successes in 2013, it was actually a tough year for the technology. Cloud services fractured into different concepts and capabilities. While the benefits of all of the different clouds were individually clear, it became harder to identify the overall benefit of the cloud. This created confusion in many C-suites.
The cloud's problems in 2013 went well beyond perception, though. As a non-mature industry, the landscape keeps changing. Major cloud companies failed, leaving customers with no place to store their data. Other companies suffered outages as they continue learning how to create a service that is as reliable as they promise.
However, 2013 also saw some changes that set the stage for the cloud to emerge as a key part of enterprise computing in 2014. For every company that shut down, many more enterprise-class companies and CSPs opened, deepening the options available to enterprise IT managers. The industry also gained additional credibility with the entree of three major providers -- Google, VMWare, and Microsoft -- into the public cloud sphere. Given the depth of offerings and the increasing level of reliability that many cloud service providers can now deliver, the cloud is ready for prime time.
Companies no longer need to look at individual cloud services to see if a given service can help them with a specific problem. Instead, they can take a much bigger picture view and create their own melange of services to make a company-specific cloud that drives value for them.
Integrating the cloud into Enterprise IT in 2014 requires looking at the big picture.
- Organizations can start by surveying their entire IT platform to determine what they have, what they need and where cloud services can fit in. Now, the answer to the third question is likely to be "anywhere."
- Next, they take a strategic view to determine which of the cloud's benefits they are looking to leverage. Cloud computing can bring higher levels of up time, greater security, increased scalability, lower cost, or any of a number of other benefits.
- The distinction between private, public, and hybrid clouds also allows companies to set goals for control over their applications and data.
- Finally, based on those questions, the company can build a plan that allows it to reach business goals that go beyond IT. At this stage, the question isn't how the cloud can fit into their IT. Instead, it's how the cloud can help them better serve internal and external customers while also providing the flexibility and capability to continue growing the business.
These questions go well beyond IT, and this is the crux of the challenge in having cloud computing take the next step in the enterprise. As the cloud becomes more universally useful, companies can start using business decision making processes as the method in which they make cloud deployment decisions. Cloud providers that have the ability to support this process will see success in 2014 as will companies that place focus on leveraging the cloud.