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Should you “beware of the cloud, beware of vendors”?

by Chris Martins, Product Marketing Manager, Trillium Software

Beware of Cloud Vendors The Bank of England's CIO, John Finch, recently presented at a UK conference: the Cloud World Forum. Among the headlines spawned by his speech were ‘Beware of the cloud, beware of vendors." It makes for a good headline, or at least a provocative one. And it echoes a similar position that Mr. Finch apparently had made at the same conference the prior year. So it's not that he was an ungracious guest – e.g. like wearing a fur coat at a PETA convention. The conference organizers were forewarned of his position and likely sought his contrary point of view.

John Finch, as a CIO, clearly is not a technology Luddite. Prior to joining the Bank of England he had a senior IT role at Experian. He is primarily singling out public cloud infrastructures for concern, if not condemnation, and pointing out potential dangers in terms of data security, data location an – because of that – the risk that data becomes accessible to foreign entities per laws like the US Patriot Act. Per news reports, those concerns mean that Finch has ruled out any role for the public cloud in the Bank's core IT systems and infrastructure. As was stated in one article, Finch indicates that "if the reasons for going cloud are to save money, you shouldn't go to the cloud."

Now that might be easier said when you are CIO of a monopoly, which in effect the Bank of England is. It's not "a" bank "in" England, but rather "the" Bank "of" England. It's been around for hundreds of years. And they don't have to compete with other banks, any more than "the Fed" does in the U.S. or the European Central Bank does in the EU. Nor do these banks compete amongst themselves either. They set monetary policies, interest rates and other esoteric, incomprehensive [to me] financial things. It's a nice gig, if you can get it – that's if you really like working with numbers.

But the real issue here is that "the" reason for going to the cloud is not to save money. It could be "a" reason for some – if not many – adopters. And if you're operating in a competitive market, saving money, either to invest it elsewhere or to increase profitability, is not a trivial motivation.

But what about agility? Now I hate to use the word because it's become a marketing cliche. But the ability to do new things in new ways is as much a motivator for cloud models as saving money (whatever term is used.) As an example, in the same article Finch is quoted as saying he "has realised the cost and flexibility benefits of public cloud instead by consolidating servers and virtualization." But a different article notes that "his group wants to do things quickly, guess what? That creates a massive amount of stress in my CIO classic IT group. The people provisioning the network need a form, can't build servers quickly enough."

Now that's a problem that is not solved by consolidating servers, but it's one that a cloud model could help address.

The real issue is not with CIO wariness or the media that report about them. It's with the cloud industry and its marketing (though the media is complicit.) The technology-centric focus on cloud features like elasticity and virtualization are so pervasive in the language of vendors and pundits that they block out the sun of insight. Any references to real business value often are eclipsed by all the jargon.

The simple truth is that if the cloud market slips into a "trough of disillusionment" (Gartner's model of technology adoption), the disillusionment will less likely spring from over promises by the vendors as much as it will because the focus has been on the wrong things – the technology rather than the business value. And that misplaced focus will create wariness in many organizations, similar to that we see in the Bank of England.

And, if so, the fault will lie "not in our stars, but in ourselves."

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