As discussed here before, a number of different enterprise cloud adoption paths are emerging. These patterns range from “Observers,” who are taking a reactive, wait and see approach to migration to “Transformers,” who are using private and public clouds to drive wide scale IT transformation and modernization programs. Not surprisingly these transformers are the Holy Grail being pursued by many cloud service providers and enterprise IT vendors. The opportunity to drive significant pieces of an enterprise IT environment to cloud environments (private and public) in multi-year transformation efforts creates visions of big services, hardware, and in some cases software dollars.

While many service providers are crafting go-to market strategies around these types of client opportunities, they’re running into an interesting challenge. They’re not finding a lot of Transformers out there yet. Enterprise cloud adoption, particularly for IaaS, is still largely focused on specific use cases or initial pilots. While many CIOs have long-term visions for cloud-centric future state environments, few CIOs are actually doing it today.

So why aren’t we seeing more Transformers in the market? Our experience suggests that in many cases there are a set of tactical (and often mundane) issues preventing CIOs from getting to the cloud more aggressively. While by no means comprehensive, several of the issues we frequently see are:

  • Licensing handcuffs – legacy enterprise software vendors clearly understand the business model disruption that cloud represents. Not surprisingly, most enterprise software houses are in no hurry to get their customers to the new world. For example, nearly all of Oracle database licensing policies are still based on physical server CPUs. One notable exception is with Amazon AWS, for which Oracle does support a “BYOL” (bring-your-own license) model based on virtual cores; at this time, Amazon is the only cloud service provider certified by Oracle.  In addition Oracle software licensing also provides no or limited technical support for major non-Oracle virtualization platforms such as VMware, KVM, Xen and Hyper-V. Needless to say, if you’re a CIO running an Oracle shop (as many Fortune 500 companies are), there are significant constraints to migrating to even private cloud environments. While not every legacy enterprise software vendor has staked out a position as extreme as Oracle, many are still using licensing as leverage to drive clients to preferred models (or keep them there).
  • Shortage of skills – cloud expertise and experience is hard to find. Without cloud architecture and solution skills, enterprises are finding it difficult to drive wide-scale transformation efforts. While retraining would seem to be the obvious answer, CIOs that have tried going down that path are finding it to be a dead end. As discussed at our Organizational Readiness track at Cloud Connect Santa Clara last February, IT leaders are finding that the cloud paradigm shift is a bridge too far, and that most of their current employees are unable to make the shift. The lack of internal talent, combined with the wariness to trust vendors and service providers, is leading to a real constraint to further adoption, particularly in IaaS and private cloud models.
  • Analysis paralysis – private cloud provides an interesting example of the proliferation of options facing enterprise IT. Private clouds can be provided in a variety of flavors, with important choices to be made around delivery model (VPC vs dedicated), location (on-premise or hosted), asset ownership (customer or service provider), platform (proprietary vs open source) and, of course, vendor.  Given the skills shortage mentioned above, even sophisticated enterprise IT shops are challenged with the variety of vendor and service options in the market, particularly given the pace of change. Of course the recent flare-up of IaaS platform wars doesn’t help make these choices clearer for risk-averse CIOs.  The result of too many choices? It’s not uncommon for us to see clients experiencing “vapor lock,” not really knowing what to analyze, let along what methodology to use. Clients are finding the frameworks, methodologies and tools they’ve historically used to make similar decisions in the past aren’t applicable or relevant in the cloud paradigm. As simple as it seems, many of our clients simply don’t know where to get started.

Why isn’t security and compliance on the list? Because in many cases, we’re finding that security and compliance is a red herring that IT is hiding behind. This is not to say that there are not workloads and use cases where security and compliance issues prevent certain public cloud models; however, these situations in reality are the minority. A variety of examples exist of enterprises leveraging the cloud today while still maintaining compliance with PCI, HIPAA and other mandates (most of which are open to auditor interpretation anyway). Best practices, tools and architectures for addressing common security issues are also becoming more prevalent, as are more mature CSP offerings and security practices for common use cases. Net, net: where there’s a will there’s a way, and in most cases if CIOs are truly interested in getting to the cloud, there are secure, compliant ways of getting there.

Overall, we believe that the wave of transformation is coming in the enterprise. Early movers exist and are achieving the promised payoff. Unfortunately the timing and shape of the wave for the mainstream organization is not as clear as those in the enterprise IT world would like, and the pace is being shaped primarily by a set of factors that are largely non-technical and beyond the IT leader’s control.

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