With the advent of the consumer driven enterprise, there are now two ways to define the success of a platform. One is to look at adoption rates and declare a platform successful based on how many people are using it. By that measure, the public cloud is a smashing enterprise success.
Billions of users worldwide are using public cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive (formerly Docs), Skype, Evernote, YouTube and, yes, even Facebook to do business with colleagues, customers, partners and vendors.
But the other way to define platform success is to look at what businesses, organizations and institutions are actually investing in and encouraging people to use. By that measure, the public cloud is a resounding enterprise flop. Every one of the public cloud services I just mentioned top the list of blacklisted apps in the enterprise. And that list keeps growing.
Moreover, adoption of Google Apps appears to be sputtering, despite reports from the company. Still with the beefed up version of Google Docs, Google Drive, now available, Google Apps is certainly one of the highest profile public cloud platforms.
Now, you could argue this shows CIOs and their IT teams are clueless, and they prove that by saying “no” and pushing back against consumerization in the enterprise. Rather than use Dropbox, IT insists on using Sharepoint. Rather than use Skype, IT requires WebEx. And so on.
I would argue, however, that it’s the public cloud services vendors who are, in fact, clueless. Large enterprises continue to embrace private clouds. IT organizations increasingly understand the risks, opportunities, roles and potential benefits of public and private cloud computing. And they’re largely putting their chips on the private cloud card.
If I were running a public cloud service, I’d be worried about IT blacklists and private clouds used to meet requirements that could be served more quickly and cost-effectively by a public cloud solution. I’d be asking IT leaders why they’re attracted to private clouds and repelled, overall, from the public cloud. And I’d start transforming my offering to give IT what it needs.
Enterprise IT leaders want tight security in public cloud services and SaaS apps. They want to ensure compliance with HIPAA, FISMA, SOXand other regulations. They need enterprise data encrypted at rest and in motion. They need directory services integration. They need disaster recovery. They can’t afford high latency, downtime or a single data breach. The list goes on.
Let’s use Amazon’s AWS public cloud as an example. When you shut down a workload, that workload is gone and is unrecoverable. If a user accidentally shuts down a workload, everything they were working on vanishes.
From Amazon’s perspective, that’s your problem. You’re expected to have backup and disaster recovery systems in place. You’re expected to design applications for failure rather than design for continuity. You have no control over continuity in the infrastructure, so you have to code it into each and every public cloud application.
Simultaneously meeting the needs of consumers, while addressing the needs of IT leaders, is exactly how a small company named Microsoft evolved the original consumerization of IT — personal computers running DOS and Windows — from a rogue device into a primary platform.
Public cloud technology vendors would do well to reuse that model. Giving consumers what they want, even to the extent of providing tools and support to help users bypass their IT departments, might be an effective way to quickly grow a user base. But it’s a dead end over the long haul.
Certainly consumers’ needs should be met. But give the IT organizations that support them the tools they need to provision, integrate, authenticate, secure, manage, automate, monitor and audit. Instead, however, the majority of public cloud vendors are counting on the consumer driven enterprise to force-feed their solutions into the enterprise.
The growth of the public cloud proves consumers want change. The growth of private clouds proves IT is open to change. If we don’t want to see the blacklists get longer, public cloud vendors must start listening to IT if they hope to succeed in the enterprise. By coming together, the cloud overall becomes more productive, safe, and effective for everyone.