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5 Ways Enterprise IT Can Embrace the Cloud

You've implemented COBIT and ITIL. Your data centers are virtualized. You're taking every "cloud" call you get from your vendors.

On the face of it, the average enterprise IT organization has little in common with cloud computing's biggest players like Amazon and Google--what with their multiplying data centers, thousands of servers and exabytes of storage.

But what the industry's leading cloud providers do--provide scalable computing power cheaply and quickly--and how they do it actually holds a number of valuable lessons for the average corporate IT organization.

"While major public cloud providers have a scale that few, if any, enterprises, will ever gravitate towards, much of what they do is eminently applicable to the enterprise," says Raymond Paquet, managing vice president, Gartner Research. "Why reinvent the wheel when it's already been invented?"

And while most IT leaders agree that cloud computing represents the future of enterprise IT, few IT organizations actually emulate the leaders in the market. In fact, they often make the exact opposite choices that their cloud providers would. The biggest reason, says Paquet, is IT vendors are successfully selling products, processes and services to enterprise IT that a cloud provider would never think of buying.

But there are five simple ways IT leaders can embrace some of the best practices of the cloud, says Paquet. And taking these steps can bring down corporate infrastructure costs as much as 25 percent, Paquet says.

1. Hold my sales calls. "One of the problems is that the major technology providers--the vendors in the marketplace--are selling enterprises things that they say are 'cloud' but are not at all being used in the public cloud," says Paquet. Storage arrays? Blade servers? Unix boxes? Mainframes? No. No. No. And no. "Public cloud provider try to not even buy software," says Paquet.

[Related: How to Choose Your Cloud Service Provider]

2. Dig into DevOps. There's nothing corporate IT likes more than a best practice framework, whether it's the process-focused COBIT or service level-oriented ITIL. After all, who can't benefit from a little operational rigor. The big cloud providers, that's who. They're focused on DevOps software development methods.

"Everyone wants to be fast, but you won't get that from ITIL or COBIT," says Paquet. "[Cloud providers] are into rapid and agile development and they have to match that operationally, which is not easy to do."

While corporate IT is spending more on infrastructure than development, cloud providers are racing ahead. "A server on an array does not generate business value. It's the software that runs on it," says Paquet. Not every enterprise environment, application, or business process needs to be rapid, add Paquet, but for systems that can transform or grow the business, it's worth investigating.

3. Settle for cheap and good enough. Cloud vendors "live in the world of good enough and cheap," says Paquet. "Better is uninteresting to them." It's no coincidence that the Googles and Amazons of the world throw CPUs at every problem they can; it's the chepeast solution out there.

[Related: Cloud's Commodity Pricing Squeezes Service Providers, Creates Opportunities]

And while they're at it, corporate IT leaders should stop paying top dollar, whether for computing power or storage. Sure, eBay may only pay a markup of 15 percent on its servers because of its buying power, but enterprise IT could get the same equipment at 20 percent market. Instead, "enterprise IT is buying boxes that are 50 points of margin," says Paquet.

4. Scale by design. Take a trip to a cloud provider's nearest data center and you're unlikely to see any virtualization going on. They don't need it. "Virtualization makes any one server more important," says Pquet. "Cloud computing makes any one server unimportant."

That's because a leading cloud provider would never consider adding any application to its portfolio without a clear plan for how it will scale over time. Corporate IT? Not so much. "They build infrastructure to scale out," Paquet says, "but if their applications don't, what problem have they actually solved?" Think scale first. And that may mean ruling out many packaged application. "Most of them are not built to scale out," says Paquet.

[Related: 5 Steps to Ensure Your Cloud Provider Is Ready for Ediscovery]

5. Hire the best. There's no question that the cloud providers are the big men on campus come recruiting time, and they take full advantage of it. "They hire the best talent, recruiting from the highest of high end universities," says Paquet. While a CIO may not be able to compete for the same pool from Berkeley or Harvard, there are some big brains in less obvious locales waiting to be tapped.


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