No, it’s not security, and it’s not privacy. It’s not speed of provisioning, rogue credit-card purchases for skunk-works projects, or even integration hairballs.
No, the biggest threat to cloud-computing companies today is customer fatigue.
Businesses are tired of hearing the tech industry squawk about whether this or that is a managed service or a faux cloud or a virtualized cumulonimbus cluster or a passing shower or black cloud of doom.
They are tired of hearing what the NIST’s definition of a cloud is or isn’t, and whether the solution that’s best for their global systems does or does not comply with the definitions of some self-appointed experts whose only certainty is that they’ll capriciously change their definitions to match the prevailing winds.
A top tech executive from one of the world’s leading telecom providers voiced this frustration the other day by saying that he’s sick and tired of the intramural squabbles among IT companies over whether private clouds are superior to public clouds, and whether hybrids are really hybrids and are they all better or worse than on-premise platforms.
At some technical level, he said, those distinctions do indeed matter and have to be designed properly and managed appropriately to deliver the desired outcomes under the required conditions.
But outside of that, he said, the only matter he truly cares about is whether the various solutions deliver to him the business value and flexibility that his company needs to be able to deliver great products and services to customers.
This executive made his points at an event for Oracle
customers during a Q&A session with Oracle executive vice-president Thomas Kurian, who had been discussing what he views as the “false dichotomy” arising within some parts of the tech industry over private cloud versus public cloud. The fact is, Kurian said, that when properly designed and implemented, the differences to the business at large will be pretty much invisible.
And that same seamlessness, he said, should extend across not only public and private clouds but also hybrids and on-premise software: to everyone above the administration layer, the underlying platforms should be unknown, nondisruptive, and irrelevant.
The telecom exec made an excellent point about the rapidly growing acceptance of cloud computing among businesspeople: we’ve got the concept, he said, and we agree with the premise, and we want to tap into the potential—so let’s get on with it!
For cloud-computing providers, this presents a daunting challenge: can your products coexist smoothly and invisibly with all of the other platforms in the IT universe? Will your status as a niche provider make you more or less appealing to business-technology executives who’ve had more than enough of the cloud-philosophy debates and are now only interested in receiving the business value that’s been promised?
The customer’s complaint illuminates why Oracle decided long ago to make all of its applications available seamlessly across public clouds, private clouds, hybrids, and of course on-premise.
For Oracle, it’s not a matter of religion or a limited R&D budget or the constraints of an overly niched position: rather, it’s all about customer choice and value and flexibility. It’s about giving customers the options they want to match up with the shifting needs of global enterprises engaged in different markets with different business climates and varying regulatory requirements.
So more and more, I think the biggest threat facing cloud-computing companies will be whether or not they can get over the tech debates and instead deliver what customers want: full and unfettered choice across all of the delivery and consumption models: on-premise, public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid.
And good luck to those companies that will be forced to try to continue focusing on the technical details rather than the business value because they don’t have the capabilities that business customers are seeking. Because in today’s business climate, they’re going to need all the luck they can get.