‘Why cloud computing?’ is always a good question

With no other viable options on the horizon, most people accept cloud as the new standard. But if you can’t offer a solid reason why, it’s a question worth asking.

These days the people who ask “Why cloud?” often get treated as if they’re thick witted. Those who play devil’s advocate often get pushed aside when their uncomfortable questions force others to justify their use of cloud (or any new technology, for that matter).

Having people around who question the reasons for moving to the cloud will improve your outcomes. Here’s why:

If we do an honest assessment of ourselves, most of us in the technology community have a certain arrogance. We’re quick to move on to new technology trends, such as cloud, edge, etc., and we do so with the expectation that others will follow. When they don’t, or if they question the move, we’re taken aback.

These tendencies repeat on an endless loop. Take the movement to minicomputing 30 years ago, followed by the rise of the PC LANs, then client/server, then service-oriented architecture, and now cloud. All those trends were heavily hyped, and billions of marketing dollars flowed. Most enterprises leveraged the promoted technologies to solve old and new business problems.

Some of those technologies were a net positive. More ones than we’d like to admit were a net negative, meaning the investment in the technology change did not produce an ROI when all factors were considered. I don’t view these as failures of the technology, but rather as misapplications. In other words, not enough people asked “why?” along the way.

Fast forward to 2021. Our past selves tell us that it will be a very good thing for our present and future selves to ask, “Why cloud?” Those who ask deserve a logical, well-thought-out answer. So far, so good.

Of course, this is all situational. The true answer depends on the characteristics of the as-is state of IT for a specific company as you consider cloud and other technologies. This is the “it depends” response that most consultants provide (and should). But when someone makes a cloud recommendation based on their dependent factors, then the consultant should have an answer.

Setting the “it depends” matter aside for a moment, it’s a fact that cloud is not always the right fit for every workload. Based on my research and the research of others, about 25% to 30% of existing on-premises workloads will not provide an ROI in the cloud. They don’t have platform analogs or it’s just not economically viable in other ways. Yes, they can be forced into the cloud, but that path will result in a net negative for the business.

Even if we get to more modern applications that do have platform analogs in public clouds and workloads that seem economically viable, they may not have a compelling business case to move to the cloud at this particular time. Often, issues unrelated to technology, such as the business being sold or a low tolerance for risk or company culture factors, contraindicate a move to the cloud in that instance, at that time, for that application and its attached data.

All this is why I don’t recoil when someone asks the “Why cloud?” question. It’s a logical question most of the time. Even if the cloud fit is obvious, we should always have a healthy skepticism around a major move to any technology, cloud included. Ask “Why cloud?” right now about your workloads. Are hype and marketing coloring your decision making? Can you forecast a viable ROI for each workload?

Think about your answer and keep asking the question.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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