IT Pros Say: Cloud Needs a Makeover
July 11, 2017

Josh Stella
Fugue

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It's not especially surprising that a new IT survey shows that cloud use for business and government poses challenges. All transformative technologies do. It's the extent of agreement — 96 percent say cloud needs a "makeover" — and nature of the challenges that's worth examining. In significant numbers across the board, respondents cited cloud complexity, compliance and security, cost control, speed of delivery, and domain expertise as the cloud problems their organizations were working to overcome this year.

The Three Cs and Beyond

Compliance, complexity, and cost were the obstacles to effective cloud management that garnered the three top trouble spots. The survey yielded specific complaints around each of those.

Compliance refers to businesses and government agencies or their contractors making certain that internal policies (usually structured around security and system reliability concerns) and regulatory demands (around NIST SP 800-53, HIPAA, ITAR, and other laws) are met. In the survey, almost 44 percent of respondents identified ensuring compliance and security as a top cloud challenge. 39 percent said security and compliance "is slowing us down."

And, when asked to prioritize the chief reason that cloud needs an overhaul, the second most popular response was "it needs to be easier to keep secure," with "it needs to be simplified and easier to use" coming in at number one.

Indeed, turning to ease of use, the nature of cloud's complexity problem was laid bare in several parts of the survey as well. Almost 42 percent said that "managing increasing cloud complexity" was a foremost concern. When asked why their company failed to get the most out of cloud, respondents emphasized that C-level executives (26.1 percent), IT leadership (35.8 percent), and developers (20.3 percent) "don't understand cloud complexity."

Contributing directly to the complexity conundrum are the number of tools and services organizations use and the nature of the problems that tooling can create. In order to make the cloud deliver on business expectations, more than half of the respondents cited high numbers of tools and services in use: 30.6 percent at 6 to 10, 15.8 percent at 11 to 15, and 6.8 percent at 15 or more. Another 38.4 percent use at least 3 to 5 tools and services to make cloud deliver. Tooling developed in house wasn't an answer to complexity either. A whopping 83 percent of respondents indicated that creating in-house solutions only leads to more problems.

The specific complaints are enlightening: in-house tooling requires specialists and time to maintain the tools; in-house tooling involves a lot of egos and, thus, a lot of politics; adopting newly available cloud services is made difficult with our in-house tooling; and, adopting new application architectures is made difficult with our in-house tooling.

The survey further revealed a direct relationship between complexity via tooling and the other top trouble spot, cost. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they were spending almost as much or more on cloud tooling and services than on the cloud itself! Controlling costs overall was a chief problem that 47.7 percent of respondents were working to overcome this year, with some noting that not only does cloud need to be less expensive in general, but it needs to be easier to reduce costs. Nevertheless, compared with traditional data center operations, 57.7 percent agreed that the cloud had saved them money. A shadow on that strong figure is that another 25 percent were not achieving the savings they expected with the cloud.

In addition to compliance, complexity, and cost issues, almost 36 percent of respondents were concerned about meeting business agility demands — referring to the speed at which they could deliver their product to market with cloud utilized. Finally, a significant 26.5 percent worried about acquiring personnel with sufficient domain expertise in the cloud to make their organization efficient.

What's the Solution?

Undoubtedly, different practitioners will advocate different approaches to the cloud problems this survey and other surveys point out. But, if you can easily go fast, see everything, and keep a system right with one holistic approach, you can dramatically reduce the time spent and money wasted on complicated, multi-tooled operations and compliance regimes that don't take full advantage of cloud's innate character.

No matter the route chosen, businesses and government need an easy-to-understand solution, built for and with cloud, that requires only basic domain knowledge to operate, but that's powerful enough to manage scaled systems.

Survey Methodology: Just over half of the survey respondents identified as IT operations personnel. Others included developers, cloud architects, DevOps engineers, and executives. Organizationally, commercial enterprises, government agencies, small/mid-sized businesses, and startups were all represented. And, the survey covered all phases of cloud maturity in its field of respondents: 35.5 percent using a mix of cloud and on-premise data centers, 29 percent planning to adopt the cloud within the next year, 20.6 percent in the process of transitioning to the cloud, 14.8 percent fully in the cloud.

Josh Stella is CTO of Fugue
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