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Resistance To Cloud Computing: Are Concerns Justified?

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Last week I visited with a client that is slightly off RSR’s typical beat: a brand manager for lighting, accessories and other products. In other words, no direct retail presence at all. I’ve been helping them set up their IT Steering Committee, and last week was the group’s first meeting.

Almost immediately, the subject of “Cloud” came up. The company has a somewhat messy application portfolio requiring real rationalization, and some of its core systems have been moved to the cloud. I was surprised by the resistance to many of these applications (apparently the vendors initiated this move), and the fundamental suspicion of cloud-based applications. I was also surprised by the sources of this resistance. Some quotes:

From the CFO:

“Maybe it’s coincidence and maybe it’s not, but ever since [application name not named here] was moved to the cloud, we have more trouble with it than we did before.”

“Maybe it’s coincidence and maybe it’s not, but ever since [application name not named here] was moved to the cloud, we have more trouble with it than we did before.”

“I am far more comfortable knowing that we have the machines under our own control, in our own building, than under someone else’s control. What happens if the cloud application goes down? We’re helpless.”

“It’s not like hardware is extremely expensive. It’s inexpensive enough for us to buy or lease our own.”

From the VP of Operations:

“On some level, I don’t mind if they’re in the cloud or not. I would be okay with [application type not named here] in the cloud, because there’s not a lot of risk if it’s down for a while, but not with our core operational systems.”

The CIO himself was less dug in on Cloud vs. on-premise solutions. He was all about chasing functionality, and taking it where he could find it. He did believe that he could outsource things like Database Administration whether his applications were in the Cloud or not.

I asked the group how they felt about more expensive types of hardware and software, like SAP HANA, IBM Watson or Oracle Exadata. They all agreed that as a mid-sized company, they would be more amenable to using this type of computing power over the Cloud, because it would otherwise be financially unavailable to their company.

The point here is pretty clear, and honestly mirrors my own experiences as a consumer of Cloud services.

There’s no doubt that many Cloud computing platforms work extremely well. I don’t know how I managed before Dropbox for example, and as a virtual company, RSR relies on Cloud-based applications for almost everything we do. And many of our vendor clients deploy Cloud-based solutions and delight their customers.

There’s also no doubt that some Cloud-based platforms are not quite as robust. We walked away from a survey tool because the product we bought was no longer the same when it was delivered. Our current tool (Survey Monkey) has gotten better as it has gone along, but I can’t deny being surprised to log in and find things have changed without even an email notice letting us know something going to happen. Some of those changes have been good. Some could have used a couple paragraphs of explanation. Some really seemed….odd.

As an industry, we in technology have a responsibility. Moving to the Cloud is not a license to change things at will. The “hacker way” may work for Facebook – but for mission-critical applications, not so much. It’s good to be nimble. But to be nimble and sloppy is a very bad combination. It’s called clumsy. And no one wants a clumsy application.

Our responsibility remains to take great care in putting out applications that work out of the gate, especially if their deployment is not a choice, but a fact of life.

Some people have a rule not to ever install an x.0 operating system. They’re probably wise. iOS 9 was just released a couple of weeks ago. We are already up to 9.02, and my keyboard still flips upside down when I’d rather it didn’t. But at least some of my smarter partners are waiting to do the upgrade. And that’s the point…we have a choice. I made mine and I have to live with it.

Presuming that Cloud computing will be embraced by everyone is an invalid presumption. We have work to do to persuade the users that they have choices. If it’s the choice of when to take the new release, the choice to play with new releases before go-live in a sandbox, or at minimum, or (worst case) advance notification of what’s going to change and why, it’s important for the user to feel in control.

Our data has shown real reticence on the part of many to go to the Cloud. Real-world observations are echoing that reticence. It’s on our industry to reduce that reticence with quality and choice. For real.

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Articles & Opinions October 6, 2015
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