A friend of mine that works at CIO.com sent me an executive summary for a survey they conducted on cloud computing in August. The results of the survey show how extensively the cloud will affect our web application world in the near future. On the darker side, the results also show how fear, power, and ignorance are holding many back from taking advantage of the many significant benefits of cloud computing.
NOAA Cloud

There were 173 respondents from executive ranks (mostly heads of IT), and 58% of them believe, “…cloud computing will cause a radical shift in information technology driving the next wave of technology innovations while only 18% say cloud computing is simply a passing fad.”

The 58% seems low to me, but I’m shocked that anyone would think that cloud computing is a fad. Are you kidding me? 18% think cloud computing is a fad?! Oh my goodness.

What IT Execs Think of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing will cause a radical shift in information technology driving the next wave of innovation.58%<td”>Current on-demand offerings are not appropriate for my business.

SOURCE: CIO Research
Cloud computing is an evolving concept that will take years to mature. 54%
Cloud computing is a passing fad. 18%

Am I too accepting of new technology? Am I a new gadget bigot? Am I too naïve? Am I a sucker for the latest tech sales pitch? Am I a techno rookie with little experience upon which to base an intelligent opinion of cloud computing? Hardly.

PetI’ve been hacking on computers since the 70’s, and I’ve worked with COBOL on a mainframe and BASIC on a Commodore Pet. Massive water-cooled computers in a centralized environment; micro computers on a peer-to-peer LAN; Honeywell mini computers; client/server using mySQL; Clipper on DOS; VMS on a VAX 11/780; octal machine commands on a switch register PDP-11. Ok, so I wasn’t around for the vacuum tubes, but I’ve got some mileage and have seen most types of architecture that have been commercially available. I even got a job offer out of college to work on an optical computer that used lasers and glass. Apparently they didn’t make it work.

All that said to brag a little and to establish my cred before making this statement: Any execs leading IT organizations that think cloud computing is a fad should start short-selling their company’s stock immediately. Leaders with that little awareness of what is effective in IT must have gotten their jobs through family ties to Wall Street investment bankers that sold them large buckets of mortgage-backed securities. If the head of IT says cloud computing is a fad, that person is either incompetent or deceptive. Let me explain.

Now I realize that cloud computing needs to mature like any new technology. And some applications of this new approach will fail. And the market forces will take a few years for cloud computing to be mainstream. But the number one reason for any delay in adopting on demand computing is corporate politics, not the technology.

For example, a writer for CIO.com stated in one of his articles about how to explain cloud computing to your CFO, “But beware: What the CFO may like best about cloud is the ability to grab power back from IT.” See, it’s about power.

Many IT leaders today are taking a position that the current cloud computing offerings are “not appropriate for our business.” Translate that to, “We are afraid it will erode our power base in the company.”

Pointy-haired manager
IT leaders that ignore the cost savings and convenience provided by SaaS model solutions, cloud storage, and computing power on-demand are possibly trying to maintain their internal empire. Job security. IT fiefdom. Or perhaps they are simply inept. Pointy-haired managers making decisions that we consider laughable (see Dilbert).

Those same leaders may be hiding behind scary concepts like “compliance” and “security risk”. Any CIO can tell their CFO something about “audit policies” in some way preventing the use of cloud computing, and the decision is made. Buy more servers. Write more code. Hire more developers. Upgrade our firewalls. Use outside security consultants if you need them to get us in compliance! By all means, don’t get us in trouble with the auditors!

I won’t go into the whole Sox issue, but everyone in business knows how scary the rules and penalties can be. The government is watching for any small slip up, and executives will be held accountable. People will lose their jobs! And blame rolls down hill. Thus, no one wants to take undo risks. In fact, it seems obvious to me that the pendulum has swung way too far the other way. IT organizations are partially paralyzed. They are afraid of even the appearance of a security risk.

With this backdrop of compliance fear, the large CIOs (at least 18% of them) are turning up their noses at one of the most innovative and cost-effective IT weapons ever created. The cloud must seem scary to them. Perhaps that is ignorance of the true security realities. Perhaps it is just easier to lay low until the CEO hears about cloud computing from his buddy at the country club. Perhaps it is a way to maintain a hefty budget in which he/she can embed pet projects and boondoggles.

Whatever the cause…the result is the same. Nearly 20% of IT leaders are choosing to utilize less effective and more costly technological solutions to support their business stakeholders. Taken to its logical large-scale conclusion, ignoring cloud computing reduces the ability of the global economy to increase productivity at the optimal pace.

Cloud computing offers scalability. It offers business flexibility. It can help drive competitiveness. It can reduce administrative overhead. It can improve infrastructure agility. It can provide a tremendous tool for IT leaders and application developers to boost the effectiveness of a key business driver – technology.

I’m happy to see that 58% are on board with cloud computing. It’s sad to see that nearly 1 in 5 leaders in our space are burying their head in the sand.