Cloud is this, Cloud is that, what is your Cloud definition?

The Clouds are Cloudy

When we look at the things that make our world more productive, comfortable and enjoyable, do we ever stop to wonder and think, how does that work? How does my phone know I need an update? How does my smart TV get the content it delivers? Chances are, probably not. Much like the utilities that we enjoy like water, electricity and gas, it’s something to be expected. We don’t really care on the delivery mechanism, we don’t care how or where it comes from. The only thing on our mind is how I am going to post this fabulous selfie of myself and the team mascot. Now hyperbole aside, much of what we do and depend on today reside on platforms that live, store, distribute and secure our everyday lives in a digital format. I am referring to the much over played, hyped and over used phrase of the 21st century (in my opinion)  “The CLOUD”.

The term “cloud” is probably the most marketed yet most misunderstood technical term ever to grace our collective minds. To be fair, it’s not the marketer’s fault that this basic word deemed to reflect something nebulous, fluffy and potentially stormy would get the bad rap it has had over the last 10 years. However, no one really ever takes the opportunity to clarify, in a public forum, what the cloud truly represents. The IT industry, as a whole, should take blame for this massive misunderstanding as just about every manufacturer out there has its own take on the cloud. This includes software developers, hardware vendors, the list goes on and on. I’ve seen countless ads touting the power of the cloud and how it can revolutionize the way we do business, save money and save time, but what they don’t bother to tell you is that the cloud is not for everyone or every business, not to mention it’s not as easy to deploy as one would think.

Your Cloud Definition

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a step back and look at what the cloud represents in the minds of the average Joes. I have asked several friends, who are not in IT, to share with me their understanding of what the cloud is, and their answers are as follow:

“Microsoft is the cloud.”

“The cloud is where I save all my stuff.”

“Isn’t the internet the cloud?”

It didn’t surprise me to hear these and other explanations given the way it gets sold in the media. However when I asked my buds who work in IT, I got a similar set of answers and that surprised me given that they are more than just consumers of the technology, they are adopters and advocates of the so called cloud technology. This gave me a moment of pause and made me think, why do my non-technical friends and technical friends think alike when it comes to the cloud? Is it that they just don’t understand? Do they not care? So I went back and asked them the question differently. How do you think the cloud works? This is where the lightbulb went off and I had an AH HA moment.

One technical friend said Microsoft Azure provides him cloud services that he stores information on, they just use software to attach to it but wasn’t completely sure of the hardware they use.

Another technobud said he built his own private cloud and uses virtualization to provide his users access to the servers at the office.

One non-technical friend said he uses drop box to save files and retrieve them, and he likes the way he can use it on his laptop and phone to access what he needs.

The Real Cloud Definition

So the general feel I got from my friends was that the cloud is a mechanism to store and access information. They are all happy with the concept of “Hey, I can get to my stuff from anywhere and any device.” None of them really cared about the security, means of access or what it’s stored on. In fact, they only care that they can get to their stuff easily. Have we made technology seem so simple that even complex concepts such as the cloud can seem so trivial? Have we clouded (PUN) everyone’s minds with the idea that all you need is internet access to save your information?

In my next post, I will follow up on the concept of the cloud and how it can be confusing for users and organizations to adopt, and why I think security is overlooked. Stay tuned for Cloudy with a chance of confusion.

Five Easy Steps for Implementing the Cloud

Anyone recognize this scenario?  A CEO goes golfing with other CEOs and she comes back and she says, “I want to go 100 percent cloud.”  We technology folks joke about this, because it’s both so stereotypical and it’s also so true.

Frankly, I’m tired of all these different responses and opinions to “what does Cloud mean to you,” because I cannot help but continue to refer back to the National Institute of Standards and Technology definition of cloud.  Besides the idea that it sounds so official, it’s also really the best answer.  For those that don’t know, I don’t blame you, but it would be wise to pay attention and take a look at an oversimplification of the five essential characteristics and implement them.

  • One-demand self-service
    • The ability to provision servers and storage without human intervention
  • Broad network access
    • Resource can be accessed by many different devices, such as phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and servers
  • Resource pooling
    • Servers and storage are shared across physical hardware without location limits
  • Rapid elasticity
    • The ability to grow and shrink, even in an automated fashion
  • Measured service
    • Reporting and monitoring of the usage of each component


If the above sounds a little daunting to implement, most of it is not.  It can be done using private cloud resource, public or a mix of the two (hybrid).  Below are five easy steps to get there. If you want to get to 100% cloud, here’s how:

  • Create a self-service portal using existing tools today. That’s it, folks, don’t make this too complicated.  It’s just a website where you can create a server, based on your requirements, and when you hit submit, the server is created.  You don’t have to give this out to everyone in the company either.  You can keep it inside of IT only.
  • Build the largest pool you can of server, storage and networking resources. Those companies aiming for 100 percent virtualization totally get it.  Having one big pool does not mean “all your eggs in one basket.”  It just means that you have the ability to move anything around to any location inside your data center.  Unless you have over 1,000 VMs, this is not hard to do.  Just make all VLANs accessible to all servers and zone all your storage to all your servers.  Really, that’s the crux of it.
  • If you build a big pool, you’ll naturally be elastic. If the business says, “We just acquired a company and need to build 30 servers – what’s the cost, what’s the impact and how soon can we have it?”  If you design it right, the answer is: “no impact, you can have it today and it costs “X”.  Infamous bucket of water analogy:  Take a five gallon bucket, and use it to pull water out of a bathtub.  There’s a noticeable drop in the water level.  That same bucket of water removed from a swimming pool will have a trivial effect of the water level.  You can easily add or subtract many buckets of water from a large pool.  A larger pool is more cost effective, efficient, etc.  And I recommend cost calculations based on the entire pool over three years.  In other words, if your 20,000 gallon swimming pool costs $20,000 to build and $3,000/yr to maintain it, add up all the costs for the entire environment over three years, ($29,000) and then just factor the five gallon cost of $1.45 per gallon to be $7.25/bucket.
  • Measured service is just a fancy way of saying “monitoring and reporting,” although we want to make sure we can get granular on the details. If you want to know, for example, the costs of running a service for a shorter timeframe, or want to start billing using peak times, you still use the average numbers, but you add another factor for startup/shutdown costs, and you can also add a factor for usage.  Again, there are lot of tools out there today that have this feature set and from many vendors.

And there you have it – a guide to cloud, based on a real good definition.  Notice, there’s no requirement in here to go to a public cloud.  Public clouds do arguably have much bigger pools to work with, and they can be more cost effective, but not always.  And let’s be honest, most folks don’t have a requirement for extreme elasticity where the environment is doubling or tripling in size overnight and then shrinking back down the week after.   And there’s no mention of products or other marketing terms like software defined storage, virtual networking, converged, hyper-converged, etc.  But it is the heart of cloud, and unless of course you get push-back from people telling you that their definition of cloud is better than the National Institute of Standards and Technology, this is a good place to start.

The One Fundamental Difference between Public and Private Clouds


Have you ever asked a room full of technology professionals if they understand what the differences are between public and private clouds? You’ll be surprised to still find paralyzed faces slowly shaking their heads making sure that they avoid eye contact at all costs. So why after so long, can’t technology professionals confidently look you in the eye and answer this question?

As the cloud grows, the definition of the cloud is encompassing more services and technology than ever before. Tech Target simply defines cloud computing as, “a general term for the delivery of hosted services over the Internet.” The definition is completely on point, but when you have to explain cloud computing and more specifically private and public cloud computing to a business decision maker, that definition doesn’t provide much value.

And then there is Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS). Services such as IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are driving cloud consumption usage in different ways. Additionally, cloud service providers continue to expand niche services. According to the RightScale 2016 – State of the Cloud Report, Enterprises (businesses with 1000+ employees) are averaging 3 public and 3 private clouds at any time. This multi-cloud approach thus proves that now is more important than ever to get back to the basics of cloud hosting definitions.

Let’s review how to explain cloud basics so that you can successfully deliver a message to the business decision-makers in your organization by defining each:

  • Public Cloud – a service provider makes hosted services over the Internet available to the public.
  • Private Cloud – hosted services are created or provided by a third party (or internally) with dedicated, proprietary architecture for a single organization.
  • Hybrid Cloud – both public and private environments that are able to transfer data from one to the other, also called orchestration.


Cloud deployment models are only fundamentally different at the infrastructure level. 

Are you sharing server space with another organization? If you answered, “yes,” then you are using a public cloud service provider like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud or Rackspace. If you answered, “no,” then you are using a private cloud service. Private clouds might be hosted by servers operated and managed by your own team, in your own data center or by a third-party Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider that deploys IaaS at their own data center. Usually, IT professionals select a deployment model based off of the amount of security and control they either “feel” they need or they must have to comply with regulations.

We discussed public and private but how would you explain hybrid? Hybrid just means that a company has both environments private and public running and that specific data can transfer from a public environment to a private environment and vice versa. These workload migrations aren’t easily deployable yet and cloud service providers don’t make it easy to run multi-cloud environments with seamless workload migration. A number of consulting organizations were created to help migrate workloads within hybrid environments.

In 2016, you’ll see more Cloud Management Platforms that help facilitate multi-cloud workload migration services to make it easier for you to deploy and utilize public, private and hybrid clouds more efficiently than ever before. If you’re interested in getting a behind the scenes look into cloud services from the data center side – checkout this expert led cloud event in the Chicago area based on cloud computing.

Choosing a Cloud Confidently

Pre-note: Initially, I started writing this so that our sales professionals could build confidence in their messaging when offering our cloud service, but in reality this information is more critical for the decision-maker. It’s important that you are empowered in the sales process and can direct a more constructive conversation about cloud services. I flipped the switch because, let’s face it, many sales professionals just sound the same.

My advice – compare cloud service providers last.

Here’s why…

Technology continues to move closer to the business and more dollars are spent managing daily work processes. This means that you should answer one vital question prior to looking at cloud service providers. “What does my company plan on achieving by migrating to the cloud (or a specific cloud)?” You should answer this question for the entire organization, not just your department. Understanding the business objectives of the cloud is the key to finding a cloud service provider for your business.

According to Tech Target’s – Project Success Plan: Cloud Migration, you should “opt for a provider that can speak to the business advantages you would gain through their service, such as higher customer retention or streamlined product delivery.” Your goal could be to get ahead of your competition by achieving quicker delivery requirements. Find a company that speaks and understands to your goals and how their cloud service will help you accomplish your business goals.

Which providers are trying to solve your business problems? Many large cloud service providers will focus on technical aspects of their cloud service like uptime, performance, scalability ease, etc. These along with costs, are commodity features in the cloud – meaning they are the technology features behind every cloud, some may be “better” than others, but large public cloud services are priced and sold like a commodity. Why do you think it’s so difficult to find an apple’s to apple’s comparison?

Look for a “Cloud Advisor”

I encourage you to talk to sales professionals when you begin this process. The great ones will understand your business and act as a cloud advisor. They will focus on your business and then pair you with the right cloud service(s). If you are speaking to a sales professional or cloud broker who is not interested in helping you answer this question, it’s imperative that you find one. Keep shopping until someone truly understands your business goals and how the cloud can provide your company with a competitive edge.

In addition, you might have to pair particular business challenges with internal cloud challenges. Many organizations have a lack of expertise in the cloud and/or need additional security and compliance. You may also have a declining budget and a platform with spend management controls could help you get more for less.

This means that cloud services providers like AWS might not be the best cloud environment for your business – or maybe – it is perfect for some of your business but not all of your business. There are thousands of niche service providers and platforms available to you. It could take months to decipher which are imperative to your business without focusing on your company’s business objectives first.

Multi-cloud environments and workload migrations across clouds used to be difficult and costly to manage. However, as cloud management platforms such as, CloudHelm, hit the market with a promise to let you choose and manage multiply cloud services, you will be able to best optimize your cloud usage, security, compliance, and management depending on your organizations business needs.

Cloud Management: Driving Multi-Cloud Adoption


In 2015, cloud users leveraged more clouds than ever before. According to the RightScale 2016 State of the Cloud Report, companies using the cloud are averaging the management of 3 public and 3 private clouds. Who would have thought that 6 clouds would be the average? And why 6 and not 2 or 12?

It’s also interesting to note that the report further broke down the types of clouds environments that are run by Enterprises. Enterprises are running applications on 1.5 public and 1.7 private clouds and experimenting with 1.5 public and 1.3 private clouds.

6 Reasons for the Management of 6 Clouds:

  1. As large public cloud providers become more commoditized, more niche offerings are created that are better suited for specific applications, industries, etc.
  2. IT professionals with one cloud option are realizing that there are unexpected costs and inefficiencies with having only one cloud service provider.
  3. Increase in experimenting with different cloud types as businesses spend more money on migrating daily work processes outside of dev ops.
  4. Workload migration across clouds is easier but not yet seamless.
  5. There are still major challenges in expertise, cloud security, and compliance for Enterprises.
  6. Cost management of multiple clouds is difficult to optimize.

Why not less than 6 Clouds?

The use of cloud services is fragmented by department needs. Major departments using the cloud include: IT and development, marketing and sales, and HR. Central IT and business decision makers are more involved because technology is moving closer to the business. This means that business advantages of the cloud are more important for aligning the right cloud services for an Enterprise organization.

Many Enterprises may have one business focus but several department and industry needs may change the type of cloud service provider that can align both. In addition, more workloads are moving to the cloud than ever before and more dollars are being spend on technologies that can manage daily work processes.

With the increase in cloud service provider options, dev ops teams are finding that experimenting with different cloud types is beneficial to finding better options for building, testing and running specific applications.

Why not more than 6 Clouds?

It’s simply difficult to manage multiple clouds. Many Enterprises have yet to adopt a cloud management platform (CMP) that enables multi-cloud management and seamless workload migration across clouds. CMPs with multiple cloud service provider options will be more beneficial to an organization than trying to leverage a single cloud service provider across an entire organization.

The adoption of CMPs should increase drastically as platform providers continue to develop towards the needs of users and efficiency and ease of use are realized by Enterprises. An Enterprise’s biggest challenge is their lack of resources and cloud expertise – which slows down adoption and usage rates.

Also, security and compliance are still a major challenge to extend the use of cloud across an organization. Lastly, we need to face the fact that cloud costs aren’t as cheap as we all think, and it is difficult to manage costs and optimize a multi-cloud environment without the right management platform.

Why is multi-cloud a good option with the right CMP today?

  • Reduces risk through redundancy
  • IT can shut down specific services that were vulnerable to one cloud without shutting down everything
  • Cloud providers may increase prices and terms
  • Niche clouds are built to better suite specific business needs

Eliminate the Top Cloud Challenges for your Business

Businesses have found a new top challenge of cloud, cloud problems and computing issues. According to the RightScale 2016, State of the Cloud Report, security reigned as the most demanding threat over the last few years as businesses questioned the ability of cloud providers to uphold their security standards. A “lack of resources and expertise is the new top cloud challenge that displaced security this year.” This is good news for professionals who would like to access more workloads and applications in the cloud. However, it comes with many challenges. More professionals are using the cloud, yet there is a shortage of cloud experts. In addition to the top two, the report highlights the eight challenges below and as seen in this infographic about the top cloud challenges of 2016.

Top Cloud Challenges

  1. Lack of resources and expertise
  2. Security
  3. Cloud cost management
  4. Compliance
  5. Managing multiple cloud services
  6. Complexity of building a private cloud
  7. Governance / control
  8. Performance

What do these challenges mean for your business and how can you leverage technology to eliminate these challenges that may be holding back your business?  Let’s review the top three challenges that may be hindering your business.

Lack of Resources and Expertise

What does a lack of resources mean for your business? It means that it’s not only difficult to find, but costly to hire in-house expertise to manage your own cloud. Even the big players find it challenging to recruit talented experts – when salary costs aren’t as big of a challenge as it is for smaller businesses.  This is bringing about a, “What do we do now scenario?” where organizations are purchasing cloud services, getting setup, but don’t know how to get started. Imagine the problems that arise with stakeholders when you can’t optimize your large technology investment.

How can you leverage technology to displace this challenge? It is currently difficult to find technology that takes the place of a cloud expert. However, by leveraging a company like Rackspace that emphasizes managed and professional services, that just so happens to be goodat cloud services – you’ve hedged your bet that you’ll get the resources you need to successfully manage cloud computing implementations, issues, etc. You’ll want to find a provider that will consult and educate you on your “cloud journey.” They should provide you with the resources to optimize your cloud investment and walk you through the next steps. Also, look for cloud management platforms that focus on making it simple and easy for the end user. Many of them offer free trials. Test both their technology and professional services during the trial to see if they meet your standards.


What do security challenges mean for your business? Security is an ongoing challenge for businesses. However, with the current cloud environment, it’s more about understanding what the right consumption model is for your organization and what applications and data should / should not be placed in the cloud.

How can you leverage technology to displace this challenge? Many organizations are still uncomfortable when it comes to migrating applications and data to the cloud. Fortunately, niche cloud services are providing platforms with pre-built security models specifically designed for their industry regulations. These security models are usually paired with compliance models for HIPAA, PCI, etc.  so you can rest assure that their security measures are auditable.

Cloud Cost Management

What do cloud cost management challenges mean for your business? Many organizations are getting locked into 2 year consumption and/or subscription contracts and then finding that they are spending way more than they estimated. In addition, pricing with large public cloud offerings change often and managers don’t have the ability to normalize spend and usage controls across their organization.

How can you leverage technology to displace this challenge? Look for cloud management platforms (CMPs) like CloudHelm that offer a single-pain-of-glass for viewing and managing cloud services. CMP’s with cost management functionality should enable you to monitor utilization and right-size instances, automate shutdown of temporary workloads, shutdown workloads during certain hours, find storage volumes not in active use, select cloud or region based on cost, and seamlessly move workloads into cheaper clouds/regions.

Leveraging technology and expertise is about understanding the value of the cloud for your organization and pairing the right cloud service provider for your business needs. Cloud advisory services and assessments are a must to optimize your cloud management. Learn more about choosing a cloud confidently.