The danger of cloud silos

In many instances clouds will just become a set of new silos, diminishing the value of IT if we're not careful

Many consider cloud computing a revolution in how we do computing. However, we could find we're falling back into very familiar and unproductive patterns.

Although clouds can become more effective and efficient ways of using applications, computing, and storage, many clouds are becoming just another set of silos that the enterprises must deal with. But it does not have to be that way -- if you learn to recognize the pattern.

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Silos are simple instances of IT, where processes and data reside in their own little universe, typically not interacting with other systems. Clearly IT seems to like the idea of silos. Need an application? Place it on a single-use server, and place that server in the data center -- now repeat. This pattern has been so common that data centers have grown rapidly over the years, while efficiency has fallen significantly. Cloud computing will address efficiency around resource utilization, but any gains there could be rapidly lost if we're just using cloud computing to build more silos.

In the past we've tried to bring all of these silos together through integration projects that were more tactical afterthoughts than strategic approaches for system-to-system synergy. For many enterprises, the cost and the distraction of eliminating silos meant that the silos lived on.

Now there's the cloud. While seemingly great a way to eliminate the inefficiencies we've created over the years, the ongoing temptation is to implement cloud solutions, public or private, that are really just new silos to deal with. For example, creating a new application on a platform service provider without information- and behavior-sharing with existing enterprise applications. Or even easier, just signing up with a SaaS provider and neglecting data-synchronization services, which in many instances are not provided by the SaaS vendors.

The end result is an enterprise IT that becomes more complex and difficult to change, now on the new cloud computing target platform. This siloization counters any efficiencies gained through the use of better-virtualized and sharable infrastructure, as provided by public and private clouds. Indeed, in many instances the use of cloud computing actually makes things worse.

The ability to avoid these issues is brain-dead simple, but it does require some effort and a bit of funding. As we add systems to our portfolio, cloud or noncloud, there has to be careful consideration of how both data and processes are shared between most of the systems. While taking a fair bit of work, the value that such consideration brings will be three or four times the investment.

So please consider this before signing up to more clouds and inadvertently signing up to more silos.

This article, "The danger of cloud silos," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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