I Can See Clearly Now the Clouds Are Gone

cloud clear skyI can see clearly now the clouds are gone…

Our vision is blurred by the thought of cloud. We know we need it, yet we don’t really understand why and how. The idea of cloud is in many cases impeding real progress in developing a new operating model for IT; and unfortunately, the industry isn’t helping. We’ve all seen or heard some cloud company executive say, “Private cloud is too expensive,” or a big box supplier tell you, “Private cloud  is the only way to truly protect and guarantee your environments.”  Sadly, these apparently competing messages are wrong, and they only serve to cloud our vision and slow our progress.

I can see all obstacles in my way…

Of the many obstacles slowing and “complexifying” our progress, one of the worst seems to be the fact that we all too often view our choices as all or nothing. In other words, when someone says public cloud is the only truly elastic environment, we assume that we’re broken if we don’t use it. Alternatively, when we are concerned that public cloud is too expensive, we pass judgment that all workloads should be put on a private cloud; and again, nothing could be further from the truth. What is critical to understand is that a variety of clouds is a good thing. Going hybrid is likely something that virtually every company will eventually do. The reason for variety and a hybrid model is simple—no one cloud solves all problems. Another way to say that is that no one cloud solves all problems in the most effective way; therein lies the key.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…

Understanding what problems you’re trying to solve or opportunities your trying to create is step one, but that should be followed by an honest assessment of what type of internal, external, or hybrid type solution makes the most sense.  The reality of IT is that we all too often make decisions based on assumptions we’ve learned through osmosis over the years. We also make poor decisions based on a lack of leadership in preparing our IT organization to be an agile, business integrated force for change. Like putting cologne over the stink of sweat, the only real answer is to shower—or in this case be honest, make the tough changes, stay true, and move forward. In other words, after establishing the “why,” wipe the slate clean and build for the future like you mean it. That’s the only way to clear the dark clouds that are blinding your decision process.

I think I can make it now the pain is gone…

There will likely be pain in moving forward, and in many cases that pain will be the cause of inaction on the part of IT leaders and poor career planning on the part of extended IT staff.  However, there is still time to make the changes that can smooth the longer term transition to the appropriate organization models and staff reward systems.  With change moved to a planned and coordinated activity, you can effectively erase most of the pain associated with “here today, gone tomorrow” approaches to staffing and org models.

All of the bad feelings have disappeared…

With a better foundation in the IT organization, misunderstandings around the choices in solutions removed, the bad feelings can be cleared and real forward progress can be made.  The involvement of staff in business discussions makes IT a part of the business, not a vendor to the business. This involvement breeds ownership, partnership, and well, the feeling of “involvement.” We all want and need to know that we’re involved in what our company, our function, and our departments are doing. There’s no greater long term negative impact on morale than the feeling of, “Well…I guess I’m just here for the ride.”

It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sun shiny day…

Yes, it’s a little sappy, but bright and shiny days are ahead. I can see no greater achievement for IT than the accomplishment of being directly and immediately involved in how the company adapts to the ever changing dynamics of the global economy. The idea is that instead of being the bag holder or cost center for the business, you’re instead moved up to that spot where IT should always have aspired to—that is  a creative, proactive participant in company growth. The hybrid(ized) future for IT, or as I’ve called it in the past “Fluid IT,” means the creation of a function that is so integrated with the business that it doesn’t “react”; it implements. It doesn’t “cost control”; rather, it innovates for greater sales and profits.

Here’s the rainbow (and some unicorns)…

It doesn’t mean you won’t be sold the occasional rainbows and or unicorns. The best way to avoid becoming a unicorn herder is to be aware. I always recommend asking for help, but the key to getting advice and help is knowing what you want to begin with. In almost any industry or function, if you don’t truly understand what you’re trying to achieve, the vendor will give you whatever it is they can that gives them the best profit margin. I’ve personally had years of experience with this in IT solutions and even data center builds.  Similarly, if you go to a law office asking for a will, do you think they write a new one from scratch? No, they use a template and fill in the blanks to maximize margin. You can’t afford to use a template with IT solutions, there’s too much change and too many variables in the usage characteristics.

Nothing but blue skies (mostly cloudy)…

As I’ve stated along with so many others, the current opportunities in IT are great, as are the risks. However, if you’re willing to recognize what’s coming and plan for it instead of deny it, you can enjoy blues skies with clouds. Again, keep the business drivers and strategy in mind, define your usage characteristics along with a “realistic” ownership plan, and make your move. The great part about this is that there’s room for most everyone who wants to be there, and you have a few years to make the transition occur. Have no doubt though that the transition will occur—the only question is whether it occurs with you, or without you and your team.

The clouds (of confusion and obfuscation) are gone…

Taking the unicorn by the horn will give you a much better chance of cutting through the cloudy and obfuscated world of IT/Cloud solutions. Stay focused on the goal, and be clear about what you want and why you want it. If necessary, then find the right partner to help you get there. Because we all want to “see clearly now the clouds are gone.”


  1. Mark,
    This is exactly the level-headed article with a deep understanding of the nuanced state of the world that I come to expect from you. Cloud is not an “easy button” or even a single solution (behind curtain #3 is “THE CLOUD”) – but rather is a trend with various architectures and so many options that there is no one solution. We can be sure that the changes that we have seen over the last 5 years will be small in comparison to what we see in the next 5. Thanks as always for sharing.
    Stu Miniman
    Twitter @stu

  2. All great observations and to add and concur – Private, Public, Hybrid clouds are strategies to achieve different aims, thus I concur all clouds are not the same. We (@Ospero_) view the world in the same way the journey to the cloud is just that – a journey that changes as needs change and more importantly as business process’s change to reflect new ways of working. Speaking with Enterprise customers its astonishing how little they are visualised let alone using cloud in any shape or form. Like the shift from Mainframe to Client Server – the shift now is from physical to virtual to cloud with some workloads going directly to cloud as containerised virtual workloads. All very exciting stuff – final issue that Enterprise needs to get over is multi-tenancy objections at the present time you cannot have all the benefits and price points of public cloud yet still insist on NOT using a multi-tenant environment – hence WHY there are at least 3x flavours of cloud available in the market today.
    Will there be a day when cloud is just cloud, sure but psychological barriers and perception needs to change and that’s a way off yet so until then pick your cloud carefully.

    • Jason,

      Great feedback and totally agree with your comments.

      I see no issue with folks investigating technology (POC on Cloud infrastructure or on Public cloud), but the idea of going into production without having a broader approach of where applications and opportunities fit is wrong. Lastly, as you move past POC you should already have established an organization that removes the silos we all recognize won’t work in a truly agile “Cloudified” environment.

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