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Cloud Computing: Great for Users, Headache for IT

New survey shows complexity of the cloud, including managing multiple cloud vendors, puts a strain on IT.

The cloud offers a wealth of benefits to end users, but the complexity of the cloud is one big headache. 

“Most companies that move to the cloud experience complexities that create a new set of challenges and processes that are daunting when faced alone,” according to a new survey of almost 250 IT leaders from enterprise companies commissioned by Sungard Availability Services.  “Without the support from a strategic partner, many who adopt a cloud-based environment have difficulty managing the complexities.”

The survey reveals the biggest headache: connecting multiple systems “such as integrating initial cloud investments with new cloud services (59 percent), implementing services from multiple vendors (58 percent), and integrating cloud with legacy systems (57 percent)”  The issues are worse for global enterprises. 

The company’s international survey conducted in the United Kingdom (U.K.) found that “55 percent of U.K. organizations use three or more vendors. Specifically, 25 percent of U.K. respondents complained they use too many cloud platforms and 37 percent said that adopting the cloud made their job more stressful. “

Chris Ortbals, vice president of services product management at Sungard AS commented: “The value of implementing a full or hybrid cloud infrastructure is clear, but many dive in without understanding the new challenges resulting from deployment, leaving IT leaders with a severe cloud hangover.”

The survey also pointed out that a move to the cloud may not always be successful.  “Many organizations moved to the cloud for anticipated cost savings, agility, and accessibility,” the company says, but “after the initial cloud investment, 66 percent of respondents’ organizations moved one-third of their systems back to physical infrastructure, with 36 percent claiming the leading cause for doing so was complexity of operating their cloud applications.”

The U.S. survey found two areas where complexity outweighed convenience.

This year, the survey said, nearly three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) employed external support to implement cloud solutions. Nearly as many (73 percent) claimed to have spent “more on managing the cloud implementation than predicted.  … Most IT leaders anticipated upfront costs but attribute additional costs to the complexities that arose from cloud implementation.

The second problem: managing multiple cloud vendors.  When enterprises use both private and public cloud solutions, it’s more likely they’ll have to manage more than one vendor.  In fact, said the survey, “More than 88 percent of survey respondents said that they managed more than one cloud vendor, with nearly 18 percent saying they manage five.”  Yes, five.

The survey also reports that 57 percent of respondents found it difficult to align cloud deployments with business objectives.  Over half (53 percent) said delivering rapid ROI was one of their top five challenges.

The Cloud Isn’t As Cheap As Expected

The Sungard AS survey looked at costs and benefits.  “Many who rushed to the cloud have been blindsided by unexpected costs following implementation. For instance, 74 percent of respondents spent $30,000 or more in monthly cloud maintenance fees in addition to their initial investment.”

Respondents cited “lack of transparency in the buying process, the need for additional specialized staff, and ongoing maintenance fees” as sources of unanticipated costs and complexity.  The company called it a “cloud handover from unexpected expenses” and the common perception that all workloads can be moved to the cloud with ease.

Sure, there’s economy of scale and the expectation that tech spending on infrastructure and the capital budget will drop, but, in fact, “39 percent of IT leaders said they adopted cloud solutions to increase business agility and 38 percent wanted to increase their competitive advantage.”  Perhaps they did, but it was more costly than they expected: higher initial investment, higher day-to-day maintenance, and higher personnel costs (staff was needed to manage the technology).

Unanticipated cloud clouds were found in three areas:

  • Execution: Almost two thirds (63 percent) of organizations surveyed organizations “spent $150,000 or more implementing cloud services.”  Most IT leaders had anticipated upfront costs, but didn’t account for the additional costs associated with transitioning to the cloud.

  • Maintenance: Eighty percent said they pay more to ensure their IT environment remains integrated.

  • Unplanned spending: Hidden costs didn’t appear until after cloud services were in use.  “Key drivers of these expenses are upgrade costs (36 percent); customization (35 percent); internal maintenance costs for patching, data recovery and compliance software (35 percent); consultancy costs (34 percent); and the cost of staff to manage deployment of the cloud (33 percent).”  It was costly: 70 percent said they spent $150,000 or more in unexpected costs.

More facts from the survey are available in a free infographic.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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