Today cloud, in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), is portrayed as a rapid path towards innovation. Companies believe that cloud enables them to lift the barriers of time and instantly grow their IT footprints in support of constantly evolving business requirements. To a great extent, this can be true. However, the reality is IT continues to struggle to effectively manage their new cloud services, causing them to fail to realise the benefits they expected. Successful operation of the cloud requires an entirely new set of skills and tools which many IT teams lack.

First, it’s important to look at the biggest issues. As with any newer technology, adopters expect challenges. However, with cloud, many users are actually caught off guard. In fact, according to a global survey we recently commissioned with analyst firm EMA, there are six key areas where customers discovered unanticipated obstacles during their experience with public cloud IaaS providers.

Among the survey pool of 400 IT professionals, the most common problem experienced in the US was a lack of support, while performance and downtime topped EMEA and APAC lists respectively. Along with management of cloud services, scalability and pricing were also cited as big challenges associated with cloud.

However, despite these obstacles, most companies have persisted in their adoption and it is clear from the survey responses that the perceived benefits not only outweigh the risks, but also point to a need for agility and speed within the customer’s business that simply cannot be achieved otherwise. It is crucial therefore that organisations persevere with the adoption of cloud because without it, keeping pace with the innovation needed to remain competitive is extremely difficult.

The key to success is in selecting the right vendor that can provide the optimum level of support to make the cost of doing business in the cloud much more palatable. From the survey responses, the main benefits of cloud adoption are seen to be business agility, application scalability and lower costs:

  • Faster deployment of new workloads (48 percent): Business leaders are under pressure to quickly and flexibly adapt to industry trends, and IT is poised to play a new key role in the effort. The ability to quickly deploy new workloads enables IT to experiment, test and fully deploy technologies that not only solve problems, but drive business initiatives.
  • Faster scaling of existing workloads (47 percent): It may well be the case that business agility is more a master of scale than delivering new services. When customer demand for a product or service rapidly escalates, cloud customers can easily scale to ensure that the additional user load does not impact application performance and availability. With the right provider, cloud services mitigate business challenges with almost unlimited scalability.
  • Capital Expense (47 percent) and Operational Expense (45 percent) savings: Most IT organisations still remain, to some degree, under budgetary constraints. Cloud services offer an alternative to purchasing and supporting on premise servers, potentially delivering CAPEX and/or OPEX savings.

As well as identifying the key advantages and the unexpected challenges of cloud, the survey also found that most of the companies surveyed also have a high level of self-awareness in their approach to adoption. They were able to identify the areas where they need help in harnessing the potential of cloud. This is very encouraging, and again it’s important that organisations keep these areas in mind when choosing a provider.

80 percent of respondents noted that they required some amount of professional services to get started which reflects an acknowledgement from IT organisations of the lack of global domain knowledge. Customers cited security/compliance (57 percent), integration with existing local data centre services (47 percent), and disaster recovery planning (45 percent) as the main areas where they required external support and expertise.

Many of the organisations surveyed also shared their views on some of the key aspects that make an accessible cloud platform:

  • Better Management Dashboard (52 percent): Most public clouds are built on the back of proprietary platforms, so they differ from on premise systems. That means public cloud management metrics, controls and functionality tend to be foreign to customers.
  • More Flexible Virtual Machine Scaling (47 percent) and Easier Resource Scalability (46 percent): Scalability, both at overall footprint and VM levels, is core to the promise of cloud. However, it is usually trickier to implement than companies would like, and many cloud providers do not ensure scaling without downtime.
  • Better VMware vSphere Integration (45 percent): Related to management dashboards, most public clouds are not built on VMware, the dominant on-premise cloud and virtualisation platform. Therefore, integration with on premise systems presents an ongoing challenge.
  • More Transparent Pricing (43 percent): Pricing models are often complex, resulting in expensive surprises for many customers. Such surprises can negate the promise of cost benefits that prompted the move to cloud.

Other capabilities that organisations claimed they needed to make the public cloud more accessible included simpler on boarding (37 percent) and the certainty of the geographic location of their workloads (35 percent). Respondents were also nearly unanimous in their agreement that high quality phone-based support was critically important to them. These options are typically available with steep premiums, so it is important for customers to be aware of contract details.

So for the best chance of success, organisations should look for a provider that can meet all of these requirements. They need to take their time and select a provider that has built their offerings designed to address the challenges identified in this study. Believe me, with so much choice out there, businesses can afford to be picky. Working with a provider that is able to offer a personalised approach to a company’s specific challenges, excellent customer support and share its expertise will help to open up the benefits of the cloud and also help you to fully understand the new cost of doing business powered by cloud