Many business leaders are now applying serious pressure towards their IT counterparts to move to a cloud model sooner than later.
And no one wants to forego a significant competitive advantage.
But it can be harder than it looks -- at least, given many of the familiar public cloud options in the market.
Most larger enterprise IT landscapes are deeply integrated; almost woven together.
Applications aren't usually isolated; they feed, and are fed by, others. Critical business processes that power any enterprise can span dozens of individual application components. And like a central nervous system, the enterprise IT control plane spans all of it, keeping a watchful eye on performance and security.
Unfortunately, the basic nature of popular public clouds isn't genetically compatible with what enterprise IT is doing today. And therein lies a thorny problem.
What to do?
It's All Connected -- Or Should Be
I keep arguing with folks that enterprise IT is distinctly different than other forms of IT.
What a web-scale company wants from IT and what a manufacturing company wants are usually two different things.
Data flows are integrated: transactional systems feed reporting systems feed analytical systems which often make transactional decisions -- like what offers you'll be presented on a web page.
Control planes are typically integrated around business processes, or should be: any weak link in the chain can disrupt the desired business outcome.
IT skills and expertise transcends neat boundaries; IT pros do what's needed to ensure that data continues to flow.
Now, Try And Separate Out One Component
When considering a move to a public cloud model, the discussion usually drifts to "which applications might put in a public cloud?".
The underlying technology of many public clouds is fundamentally different than what you'd find in the data center.
It's managed, secured and operated completely differently.
Existing applications can't be run unless they're tested, qualified and -- in many cases -- entirely rewritten.
And, oh yes, there's this network latency thing :)
If, as an IT leader, you've been successful in creating a deeply integrated on-premises environment, congratulations. You did your job.
Unfortunately, the act of doing so has made your ability to deconstruct individual application components and move them incrementally to a public cloud model just that much harder.
I remember many years ago when my wife and I foolishly attempted to move house over a period of many days instead of all at once. I don't know what our reason was at the time, all I can recall is that it didn't work out so well.
The moving boxes would arrive a few at a time, but we had little control as to what was in them.
We'd try to cook a meal, but couldn't come up with enough utensils. We'd try to sleep and shower in the new place, but ended up missing pillows. I tried to fix a few things around the house, but my tools hadn't arrived yet.
It's getting dark outside, where are our lamps?
It wasn't until most of our belongings had arrived that we could get back to a normal life.
Charting A Course
So, what to do?
On one hand, there's no denying the acute business interest in moving to a cloud model. On the other hand, there's no denying the stupefying complexity and deep integration of many IT environments.
One school of thought is to embark on a massive initiative to re-engineer IT to be more "cloud native" in anticipation of an eventual move to a public cloud model.
That's a laudable and notable goal -- but, in some sense, we've been continually re-engineering our environments over the last few decades.
Certainly, any investment along those lines (for example, starting to use containers to package applications) is a positive thing.
My belief? Depending on a complete re-engineering of a significant component of enterprise IT isn't going to save the day.
The required level of investment -- in time, money and resources -- can only be measured in many years. It's an inherently risky undertaking.
And the business people don't appear to be willing to wait -- or spend the inordinate amounts required to accelerate to a reasonable timeframe.
An Alternative Approach
If most public clouds don't work the way enterprise IT works, how about a public cloud that's better designed to work with enterprise IT as it is today; and not at some distant future state?
Unfortunately, most enterprise IT is defined by compromise.
Let's take workloads and application models. Many IT shops have a wide inventory: older monolithic legacy applications, current multi-tier setups, and maybe a few modern containerized models they're working towards.
Ideally, your choice of public cloud vendor should support your choice of application and computing model. Just like you do in the data center. Want to run your own stack? You should be able to.
It's not an unreasonable view that any choice of public cloud ought to be able to run databases extremely well -- at least as well as they run in data centers today.
Which explains why Larry Ellison used most of his keynote at Oracle Open World to clearly contrast the ridiculously extreme differences between Oracle Cloud and AWS.
How about being able to have identical environments in the public cloud and on-premises? Being able to bring the public cloud model behind your firewall? Have workload portability across both the data center and multiple public clouds? Being able to manage and secure it all with a consistent control plane?
These are not unreasonable expectations from an enterprise IT point of view.
Why Public Cloud Adoption Has Been Slow For Enterprise IT
Dig deeper into actual usage, and you'll find what I call "cloud at the edge" and typically not at the core of the enterprise.
Maybe desktop and collaboration has been moved to a public cloud model. Maybe there's some SaaS being done by parts of the business. Maybe there's a familiar private cloud consolidating generic workloads in the back room.
What's left is the hard stuff: enterprise applications, woven together, powering the critical business processes that every organization depends on to get work done.
Maybe the problem with enterprise IT adoption isn't about enterprise IT. It is what it is.
Maybe it's more about the poor public cloud choices enterprise IT has been offered up to this point.
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