Thoughts on Cloud Adoption

I started this blog post sometime during this summer and really never got around to finishing it and posting it.  I’ve decided today to post what I’ve got, as I think it’s enough to start the conversation.  Of course this could be a book, but I just want to start you thinking.

Frankly there’s so much more to write, but what follows is at least my basic thoughts around how you’ll see the adoption of cloud services over the next little while.  Of course I’m partial, but I think IaaS is the most interesting.  Give a read, and then post a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Software as a Service – SAAS

Fairly clearly, SaaS is a great delivery mechanism for many applications.  Sure there are some data sovereignty issues to work thru, but in general when you are looking to replace any line of business application you simply must consider the SaaS offerings.  If one has the feature depth you require and a fair price you will simply have to choose it over building and maintain the servers and software to run the application in house.

This means a slow and steady adoption rate at the same speed business replaces applications today.  Just as there are numerous vertical focused, specialized application vendors today, so will there be numerous SaaS providers as the market matures.

Platform as a Service – PAAS

PaaS adoption is a large and interesting conversation on its own but I believe that it’s a required long term play that only the biggest cloud players with the deepest pockets can participate in.  It’s going to be a long time before business can get their entire development teams trained on building truly cloud enabled applications on a specific platform offering.  Just think how many bad client/server apps get churned out of internal IT shops still today.  It’s the right thing to do, but market adoption will be slow.

Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS

Now this is the most interesting for me to think about.  I think that adoption of infrastructure as a service offerings are going to be analogous to the market adoption of virtualization.  Back in 2005, I went across the country delivering a Microsoft infrastructure technologies course to Microsoft’s midmarket and enterprise customers.  I’d estimate only 50% of the class understood what virtualization was all about.  Add 5 years and roll forward to 2010 when I updated the course and toured again, and nearly all had virtualization deployed.  Why was the market adoption so rapid?

If you think about virtualization, us technical folks were talking about machine portability, availability and DR scenarios, HVAC and general green benefits, but at the end of the day, not a single customer turned off their shiny new server farm.  It was only when servers hit end of life that consolidation rates meant serious hardware savings and virtualization was adopted with ferocity.  If you think about how IT approached the adoption of virtualization, it timidly tried it out with test/dev scenarios, then moved to low priority production and finally virtualized full production servers.

I predict now that IaaS offerings from both the major cloud vendors and from smaller independent hosters are going to grow rapidly in the next 5 years.  Sure, the current offerings are very “bleeding edge”.  AzureVM only launched earlier this year.  But they’ll mature fast.  Very fast.  When that test/dev environment comes to end of life, running those VM’s in the cloud will be a worthwhile experiment.  When that experiment is successful, low priority production and finally more and more production will follow.  Of course price points need to slide and technology needs to mature, but it is going to happen.

The day will come when the cost for infrastructure from the cloud will make building your own infrastructure a foolish waste of money.  What do you need to do to prepare?  Well that will be my next post… (Hint: Systems Management and good IT process is on the critical path).

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