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2014 cloud strategies embrace end-to-end implementation

In 2014, there's evidence CIOs are moving beyond piecemeal cloud solutions to comprehensive cloud strategies. The ultimate? Going data center-less.

The IT organization at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has an enviably state-of-the-art, expertly designed data center. And from the first time CIO Alexander Pasik saw it when he joined IEEE three years ago, he was certain of one thing: It had to go.

Alexander PasikAlexander Pasik

Pasik has been passionate about the potential of cloud technologies since his early analyst days at Gartner Inc. in the early 1990s. By 2010 he was convinced that many of the systems and applications run in traditional data centers could be ported to the cloud. After demonstrating to the IEEE board and management council the economics and business continuity benefits of the cloud, the strategy was set: As systems needed upgrading or new needs arose, the platform of choice for IEEE would be the cloud.

"I was making progress; it was slow but systematic," Pasik said.

Then came Hurricane Sandy. It would provide the best worst-case scenario for going all-in on cloud. The Piscataway, N.J.-based organization made it through the storm, but the after effects proved punishing. Generators ran out of fuel and there was no way to get more, exposing unforeseen weaknesses in the organization's IT business continuity strategy.

"Although the key, mission-critical systems had them in place, people started to realize that as far as several other systems were concerned, we had to reprioritize which ones needed to have better business continuity and disaster recovery plans associated with them," he said. Moving to a cloud-based data center strategy took on more urgency.

Rather than just finding point solutions to solve a particular problem, there's a more concerted effort on the part of CIOs to really adopt cloud end to end.

Tim Crawford,
strategic adviser and former CIO, AVOA

Today, this longtime cloud enthusiast has a cloud implementation strategy that will see a dramatic reduction, perhaps even the elimination, of his data center in three to five years, tops.

Pasik is not alone in his focus on planning or in having an ambitious end goal. Cloud strategies in 2014 will be about many things, but hype will not be one of them. Interviews with CIOs and analysts suggest the new year will mark the end of piecemeal cloud solutions and the start of rigorous enterprise cloud strategy plans by CIOs.

According to analysts who follow enterprise cloud adoption, the more comprehensive approach will be helped along by the transition of Infrastructure as a Service from early-adopter use cases to mainstream technology.

In addition, cloud security, which had slowly become less of a factor in CIOs' shunning cloud-based solutions, will in 2014 actually find its way back into CIO hands with bring your own encryption. The prevailing argument for cloud -- that it's cheaper -- will continue to factor into enterprise adoption, but adding value to the business will usurp some of the cost-savings talk. And to keep on top of it all, users can expect to see a new breed of service catalog.

Planning to get ahead in the cloud

Not every company is on as fast a timetable as IEEE to go cloud. As a percentage of overall spend, the numbers for cloud adoption remain rather small, said Ed Anderson, analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. While the most aggressive companies might allocate about 50% of their spending, he said most organizations will direct only about 5% to 10% to cloud solutions.

Still, the appetite for cloud is strong. At the beginning of 2013, a Gartner survey on enterprise cloud use showed 38% of organizations employing some type of cloud solution. When asked their aspirations regarding cloud, 80% said they wanted to be using cloud by the end of 2013 -- strong evidence, Anderson said, that companies are "turning up the dial" in their enthusiasm for, and confidence in cloud.

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"Incorporating cloud into broader technology adoption plans is what we're going to see in 2014," he said.

Tim Crawford, a strategic adviser and former CIO, would agree. Founder of the CIO consultancy AVOA based in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., Crawford has been in the CIO trenches and built cloud environments for enterprises, as well as service providers. He now shares those experiences and acts as a sounding board for CIOs. And what he's hearing is a desire for cloud strategies.

"Rather than just finding point solutions to solve a particular problem, there's a more concerted effort on the part of CIOs to really adopt cloud end to end," Crawford said.

Getting out of the data center business and going all-cloud, however, will be a multistep, plodding process, even for the most astute strategists and especially for large companies, Crawford said. A financial services company he is advising that started planning to go all-cloud in the fall, for example, won't be ready to make its first move until next fall, and the first step will likely be something "small," like email, he said, because there is so much preparation required.

To help them draw the roadmap to more comprehensive cloud strategies, CIOs are not just looking to strategists like Crawford for help, but are also reaching out to cloud-experienced peers, he said. This extensive research, of course is a good thing, he added, but is yet another sign of the "the complexity and change of paradigm that cloud presents for most organizations."

Read part two of this story to learn more about how cloud strategies are shaping up for 2014 including a new trend in security, the renewed importance of IT service catalogs and what's replacing cost as the main reason to go cloud.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, senior features writer.

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What does your cloud strategy look like going into 2014?