by Chris Osika and Bryan Mobley, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)

The business world’s rise to the cloud has been dramatic and increasingly rapid. From an initial attitude of vague interest mixed with trepidation, organizations have begun to embrace the transition in a big way. Some are already realizing the expansive benefits in costs, efficiency, and innovation that come with this game-changing technology.

To keep with the pulse of cloud migration, Cisco initiated a series of roundtable discussions two years ago. The philosophy of each meeting was to bring together 10 to 20 decision makers from a variety of enterprises, midsized businesses, and government agencies. So far, we’ve held 15 of these discussions across North America. In addition to providing a unique opportunity to share our thought leadership, these sessions provide an ideal forum for hearing our customers’ thoughts on cloud: the benefits, the inhibitors, and even a few war stories. In the end, however, it is the advantages of cloud that spark the most contagious conversations.

Here are some of the key trends that have emerged from two years of discussions:

  1. Costs” to “Catalyst.” Two years ago, organizations considering cloud were focused primarily on costs and IT resources. If they were already in the midst of a replatforming or redevelopment effort, they reasoned, there might also be an open window to adopt a few cost-saving measures courtesy of cloud. Since then, this mind-set has undergone a dramatic transition. Increasingly, cloud is viewed as a catalyst to actually transform business processes, bringing the organization greater agility and velocity in the marketplace while compressing time to market and customer response time.
  2. Going Virtual. Another major shift has been the rise of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Two years ago, VDI was still an obscure concept. But in many companies today, this first step on the road to further cloud deployment is not only being piloted, but enterprises are already planning wider-scale deployments.
  3. SaaS. Software as a service has become a force to be reckoned with. In the early days of our roundtable discussions, the idea of migrating any business functions to the public cloud met with great resistance. Now, cloud services like Salesforce.com and Cisco® Webex® are widely accepted, particularly when the SaaS function is contextual to the business. Additionally, the increasing ease with which SaaS supports mobility is a key driver.
  4. Security. While still a concern for cloud gazers, security is much less of an inhibitor for cloud adoption in general.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On the enterprise front, security remains a primary inhibitor to the adoption of public cloud and is a key reason organizations are using private clouds to achieve the benefits offered from cloud architectures. Still, in some cases, there is a growing sense that security issues can be managed and in some cases enhanced by cloud. Meanwhile, enterprises are dividing their business processes into core vs. context. Core business processes involving crucial intellectual property (an automobile company’s car designs, for instance) might remain in the company’s own data center, possibly within a private cloud infrastructure. But many contextual functions – for example, call centers, human resource application, and payroll – are being handled much more cheaply by public cloud service providers, while also lessening spikes in the company’s own systems.                As for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), all indications are that while security concerns are seen as important, the benefits of public cloud outweigh them. SMBs are expected to continue to adopt public cloud, particularly SaaS.
  5. Organizational & Process Impacts. Adoption of cloud, particularly private cloud, has had impacts across the IT organization. In the past, IT organizations would receive specific requests, but now, with the implementation of automated IT, the organization must choose from a set of limited cloud choices that can be provisioned instantly, but may not be as customized. This trade-off has affected how organizations interact with IT. Additionally, organizations have had to deal with letting go. In the past, IT resources would be “owned” in different organizations across the company; now the assets have been pooled, and are under centralized control — forcing internal organizations to give up control to gain the benefits of cloud.  This has had organizational, cultural, and political impacts as the transition has taken place.

The journey to cloud is an ongoing process, and so too are our roundtable discussions. In future blog entries, we intend to expand on some of these core points, offering further insights into the challenges, promise, and ultimate rewards of this crucial technology.

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