Customers wait and see as cloud wars rage

With the standards battles and never-ending hype, many organizations see no need to enter the fray

We often hear about companies that dove feet first into cloud computing. What we don't hear, though, is that these businesses are typically larger, more aggressive firms that put a value on trying new things to get strategic advantage -- and their example is meant to egg you on to following the same path.

These companies are distinctly in the minority. Although most enterprises have some storage-as-a-service providers and a SaaS or two, they still haven't created a cloud computing strategy, nor do they have major cloud computing deployments planned.

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Their go-slow approach is rational, given the state of the market. Three reasons explain most of their wait-and-see attitude:

  1. The hype is scary. I know I've beaten this theme to death in this blog, but it truly is the major issue that larger, more conservative companies harbor about the cloud. Enough have been burned in the past with a move to what seemed trendy and popular but turned out to be a technological dead end. Even if not personally burned, conservative companies are culturally risk-averse and can find plenty of faddism in the tech industry to justify that avoidance policy.
  2. The standards are in flux. OpenStack? CloudStack? Amazon Web Services clone? The lack of common approaches -- more correctly, the appearance thereof -- is very scary for organizations watching the bickering over standards. As vendors jockey for advantage, potential customers tune out and focus elsewhere.
  3. Lack of understanding. Cloud computing is a complex and confusing topic. Most business and IT executives don't understand what it is, exactly. Moreover, they're afraid to admit they don't know what it is. You don't invest in what confuses you.

What can be done? The easy response is to ask all the vendors to come together on common standards quickly -- and stop the constant "cloudwashing" and overhyping. Fat chance that either will happen.

Perhaps a more realistic answer is that a grassroots movement develops so that understanding the value of this technology percolates up from the bottom of the organization. Just as "shadow IT" made an impact in the adoption of SaaS (think Salesforce.com) and mobile computing, perhaps we can extend that approach to education about and understanding of cloud computing as well. In doing so, maybe we can clear some of the smoke and get a few enterprise IT shops to be less afraid of cloud computing, and so move off the fence. It's worth a try.

This article, "Customers wait and see as cloud wars rage," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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