Cloud computing has been with us for many years (depending on your preferred definition of the term) and I believe we should be way ahead of actual take-up and engagement of cloud computing, given its well-documented benefits – namely; flexibility, affordability, resilience, scalability, etc. – But we’re not.

I have seen progress in this area and have helped clients in diverse industries such as YO! Sushi, Endsleigh, Unilever, and in parts of the public sector. But when businesses are struggling with stagnant or decreasing IT budgets, why aren’t they taking up the opportunity offered by cloud computing to meet this challenge: the wherewithal it represents to reduce cost, drive efficiency through greater productivity, and liberate the balance sheet of non-core ‘assets’?

The answer lies in a distinction I see between two separate opportunities offered by the cloud. The first is about new business models. The second is about existing business models.

The first opportunity sees us talking about ‘the cloud’ in terms of new business opportunities and new business models; new ventures; start-ups; new ways of engaging with customers through app stores, tablets and smartphones etc. The cloud is perceived to be ‘different’ – new and exciting, yes, absolutely – but definitely different, and most significantly, as being separate from existing IT.

However, businesses forget that cloud computing offers precisely the do-more-with-less ‘alchemy’ that many existing businesses seek. Budgets are stagnant and in many cases actually reducing in size. Yet the challenge is to deliver more. This is where cloud computing vendors need to retune their marketing and messages to make their benefits more relevant to current business models – the second option which is currently failing to convince.

The point is, customers can engage elements of the cloud that are right for them at a pace that suits and in a manner that is complimentary to – rather than contradictory to – existing IT. I call this the ‘connected cloud’.
Why ‘connected’? For three good reasons:

  1. The user experience is the same
  2. The skills in existing businesses and those readily available in the market are directly relevant
  3. The platforms can be physically connected – whether that is with rich co-existence for hybrid online-on-premise exchange deployments, or Azure cloud burst facilities with connectivity to legacy apps and assets via the Azure App Fabric and Service Bus.

The economic imperative remains the same. The fit for cloud is stronger than ever. 2012 can be the year of the Hybrid or Connected Cloud if we take the time to engage existing business on a practical basis, rather than continuing to alienate this market by focusing exclusively on what makes the cloud ‘different’.