Debating the Cloud

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Occasionally, I enjoy engaging in a friendly debate with my colleagues throughout the industry about the direction technology is headed, and what it ultimately means to the people who will use and benefit from it.  I’m not afraid to take a contrarian position in order to provoke a healthy discussion.

It’s always good, however, to have others back your position; it gives you good ammunition and talking points.  Which is why I was pleased to run across this article on cloud computing from CIO.com contributor Bernard Golden.  I agree with him…well, up to a point.

He argues that it’s a “pipe dream that small companies are going to really adopt cloud computing,” especially in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) variant.  To a degree, he’s absolutely right, but let me start with where he’s wrong.  Small companies can get up and running very quickly on a cloud platform today, using web-based services from any number of companies.  It’s quick, it delivers rapid implementation and significant savings, and it allows the users to say, “yes, we’re utilizing the cloud.”

But as those companies’ needs grow, they realize that the one-size-fits-all, push-a-button-or-two-and-it’s-running platform that they started on may no longer fit their particular, unique needs.  And on this point, Golden is absolutely right.  He says, “don't kid yourself, cloud computing requires skill upgrades. There's a world of difference between getting a single instance running in Amazon and implementing an elastic application surrounded by the necessary supporting services like monitoring and management.”

It’s the midsized and large-scale enterprises that already understand that particular need, and which turn to companies like ours.  We call our approach “Hi-Touch;” it means that we’ll have experts study our clients’ particular requirements, and craft a solution that solves their challenges.  It works for mid-sized firms, and it enables large firms to move rapidly on a project or a larger basis, without involving the IT staff in yet another exercise that taxes their capability to handle their already-stressed jobs.

Smaller firms and companies just starting out in the cloud may want to take a few baby steps before deciding on a fuller deployment.  For them, the “push-button” approach may work temporarily.  But when the time comes to do it for real and to consider an IaaS implementation, even the small companies will need that same “Hi-Touch” kind of advice, experience and support to ensure they’re doing it right.

And on that, I don’t think there’s any room for debate.