Cloud has become embedded in many firms as the weapon of choice for accessing computing power and storage without needing to own hardware. However, while Cloud has many advantages, there are some important disadvantages that business decision makers must navigate.

Sometimes, the underlying disadvantages of Cloud can be overlooked and only become apparent when real problems and issues emerge to threaten business performance. Cost is often cited as a Cloud problem, of course. More insidious problems, though, can suddenly appear, alongside cost, undermining delivery and derailing ambitions.

Cloud is a business resource, not a technology

Back in the day, Cloud services were the new technology. Not any more: Cloud has moved on and AI is the technology poster child, now. The exploration of fresh, new things made possible by the Cloud, is yesterday’s story. Development continues but the technology is a well trodden path.  For the many firms with application software up and running, the challenge is to make Cloud’s day-to-day delivery and economics work for the business.

Cloud costs are often hard to predict and nasty cost shocks can show up after the fact. How costs vary with the dynamics of the business can prove to be damaging and even catastrophic. It has to be said that 60%+ of the market is controlled by the two leading brands, and this can lead to problems for customers that need to be avoided in advance (more…)

Customers expect reliable, dependable service when they need it, often round the clock, and that takes people and processes that are service driven to the agenda of the business. This is very different from development, which is about getting new things to work. It’s a different mind-set. Objectives are driven by the business need for stability and efficiency.

This, in turn, requires a team that understands those drivers and has the skills and methodologies to do what’s required, efficiently and flexibly.

The tech team is over stretched with non-core workload

Almost all ambitious businesses have too few tech specialists who have the depth of skills and a real understanding of what the business is aiming to do. Good people are hard to find. What’s worse is that the few really good people are the most stretched. There’s just too much to do. The good people often are overworked and deadlines get slipped.

Along comes the Cloud infrastructure that supports all that software in service. The constant need is to be up and running, performing well. Problems must be anticipated, spotted well in advance and fixed before anyone has a problem, especially customers. Cyber requires constant attention if security levels are to remain high. Best practice takes time and attention as a routine, and this is vital, but isn’t a core skill of the business. It is like looking after the kitchen equipment so the chefs can concentrate on creating the great food that the customers have come for. You don’t have the chefs cleaning the ovens and maintaining the refrigerators. That’s a waste of talent and value.

The housekeeping and vigilance call for routine processes and everyday attention that are not well suited to the development mind-set. Cloud as an operational resource is all about stability and resilience, not about getting new things to work. So the less exciting routine often gets short-changed, leading to a build-up of issues that eventually cause outages and emergencies. The growing dependence on Cloud Operations is often not matched by the routine, pro-active attention it deserves, and effort becomes reactive only engaging when the problems emerge. (more…)

Shifting these non-core workloads to a specialist partner is a better use of payroll and enables the internal team to step up to higher value objectives. (more…)

Business decisions are constrained by Cloud

In business, flexibility and responsiveness are key. Drivers for change come from inside and outside. The business may need to change or scale. Competition and the business environment are changing all the time. New opportunities emerge. All of these call for decisions and actions in response. Freedom of action is crucial for any business leader.

Yet Cloud providers frequently restrict choices, usually to prevent escape to another provider.  Well designed applications are able to run on any good Cloud infrastructure, but this is often undermined by hidden constraints that weren’t well understood at the outset, before it was too late. Providers offer all sorts of special services that are enticing for technologists and make it easier to build, but are really designed to keep customers on board. They can prove all but impossible to replicate elsewhere without significant effort and cost. Even the complexity of each Cloud provider’s services becomes a forbidding hurdle for technical teams who would rather stick with what they know, even if this is not the best thing for the business. (more…)

Cloud providers themselves change – change prices, change and even discontinue services. Becoming locked-in to one provider, with no easy means of escape, leaves you and your business vulnerable to whatever they choose to do. This robs you of the flexibility to go where you want, and do what you need to, for your business to succeed.

Navigating these obstacles calls for broad-based experience of what happens in practice and where the traps lie, both in advance planning and on the journey as it unfolds.

Cloud as an operational business resource

Firms that depend on Cloud, need the infrastructure to do what it should do, all day, every day. They need it to be as flexible as they must be in response to internal and external demands. Above all, Cloud must do these things economically. Business should not be about Hope & Cope. The dynamics of how the business will move and change have to be anticipated and planned for, if the blind alleys and lock-in traps are to be avoided.

Cloud Operations calls for specialist knowledge and experience of the ways in which business and Cloud infrastructure interact, and what needs to be done every day for the business to succeed. Specialist firms like Flexiion don’t just do the support when things go wrong. So much of Cloud Operations is about anticipating and avoiding the issues and constraints. The better they do their job in advance, the fewer the day-to-day issues, and limits on your decision-making, will be. This is their real added value, alongside the everyday job of doing the things that release your team to be able to succeed in your business.

Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests. (c) 2022, Peter Osborn