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CIOs offer uninitiated some advice on going to the cloud

As 2013 was coming to a close, SearchCIO took a look ahead to the new year and asked some CIOs and industry experts to weigh in on the shape of cloud strategies in 2014. It looks like we’ll be seeing enterprises embrace new trends in security and a drive toward going data center free in the months to come. But what about the midsize companies?  Those who fall between startups running entirely on cloud and enterprises with the staff and budget to put toward cloud directives? Some companies have only made baby steps — sometimes inadvertently, if at all — toward embracing the cloud. What should they be looking to do this year?

Two of the CIOs we spoke to for the cloud strategies 2014 story were more than happy to share their advice. As much as one can be an old hand at a relatively new technology, these two gentlemen are it.  Alexander Pasik is a former analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.  who served as CIO for the Guggenheim (where he finished his tenure with 70% of applications being cloud based ) and is currently looking to go data center-free as CIO for the Institute for Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE). Larry Bolick is CIO of Boston-based Aquent, where he started going all in on cloud back in 2008.

What advice would you give a CIO who is just starting to seek cloud solutions?

Alexander Pasik:  As you go from infrastructure to platform to software as a service, the economic benefits increase. So if you can identify well defined point solutions for SaaS,  like e-mail, contact and calendar or if , suppose you’re a small company and you haven’t invested a lot in a financials package,  financials packages are pretty much consistent, you’re not going to get an advantage by using financial package over another so why not use a cloud based one?  So it’s a matter of identifying the things that are as boiler plate as possible, that you’re not going to want to make changes to, that you can just use out of the box.  Like an e-mail system, like a financial system, etcetera.

Should they be worried about the maturity of solutions at this point?

Pasik: That’s the thing, right now it’s so hyped up that there’s a lot of vendors providing solutions in the cloud, but many of these vendors might be very small and might have very limited sustainability. You might be tempted to go with a cloud vendor who has some interesting, unique solution that you can just plug and play. But if these guys are a start-up that may not be around in a year then you’re stuck because you just put all your data in their systems. So you do have to make sure that you are working with reputable vendors that you know you can rely on.

What advice would you give a CIO who is just starting to look at using cloud?

Larry Bolick: I think the logical starting points are still where they were when I started. If you haven’t used cloud to begin with, you’re probably going to start thinking about  an application that hosted in the cloud like with a Google  or a Salesforce or something like that.  But to use clouds as a kind of the PaaS or IaaS you’re probably going to start through your software development organization or your IT organization. Just to get them familiar with it. Because you need the systems administration ability anyway from that organization to get familiar with the cloud to support all that stuff. So that’s the logical place to start. Within that organization, everyone needs and extra server now and then to scale or everyone needs a test environment that’s not part of your production software environment – those are the areas that that traditional – if you can call three or four  years a tradition –  those are the areas that are have been the place where many folks have started getting familiar with cloud based services.

What about having the right skills?

Bolick: One nice thing now is it’s easier to find the system administration  resources that are familiar with cloud services and virtualization that’s associated with it than it was a few years ago. A few years ago you basically had to grow those resources and now you can find them just as the market has got more legitimacy and more people have started using them.

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