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Bringing down the top barriers to the cloud

Cloud service providers must provide complete visibility of their customers' environments.

Organizations face many challenges as they adopt cloud infrastructure and applications. The technology necessitates operational and pricing changes, as well as potential shifts in traditional job  roles. However,  the most prominent issues facing the cloud may still be technical in nature. A recent report from IDG Enterprise identified security and integration in particular.

The security challenge
The good news is that many business leaders have grown more confident in their ability to create security policies for the cloud. This is promising because it addresses the issue of the cloud-expertise gap. However, analysts noted that security concerns persist because decision makers are worried that they will be unable to enforce those policies. Recent events such as NASA's cloud computing audit could fuel this fear by showing the risk that shadow IT creates. As a result, cloud providers may need to make controls such as authentication, resource usage monitoring and transparency a part of their core value propositions.

The integration issue
Delving into the report in more detail, Forbes contributor Louis Columbus noted that three concerns emerged from an IT perspective. The reliability and stability of integration, cited by 47 percent of survey respondents, weighed heavily on the minds of technology decision makers. The ability to connect on-premise infrastructure and cloud applications has become even more important with growing interest in hybrid cloud computing. However, it is not only a matter of enabling programs to share data – enterprise IT departments also want standardized access control mechanisms to use across multiple environments.

Transparency: Not just for security
When discussing cloud security concerns, IDG analysts touched on the subject of transparency among cloud providers. This theme has come front-of-mind several times in recent months, so it is worth discussing the potential benefits to cloud providers. First, it is important for technology vendors to be clear about the safeguards they've established to protect critical data and applications. This lowers risk to customers and can be instrumental in gaining trust.

Transparency can also enable cloud buyers to more accurately estimate and track total cost of ownership. Because IT spending issues factor heavily into cloud hardware discussions, cloud providers that better enable customers to monitor expenses can deliver more value. As TechTarget contributor Beth Pariseau recently noted, many business decision makers experience sticker shock after running into unexpected cloud costs.

"Beyond the initial server instance, cloud computing pricing usually includes storage, networking, load balancing, security, redundancy, backup, application services and operating system licenses," Pariseau wrote. "Certain cloud computing costs – resource contention, storage, bandwidth and redundancy – can come as a surprise."

A significant part of the sticker shock issue comes back to transparency. Jared Reimer, co-founder of IT consulting firm Cascadeo, told the news source that organizations most closely monitor cloud instances, storage pools and memory footprints to avoid the risk of over provisioning. Companies often use cloud storage to house virtual machine instances without effectively adjusting the size of each VM. As a result, customers end up paying for large instances when smaller ones would have been more appropriate.

In addition, when considering cloud storage services, it's critical that customers are able to monitor and track capacity as well as performance requirements. Especially with the additional space requirements of cloud-based backup, organizations that lack visibility into these environments will face excessive costs and frustration.

Particularly as more business leaders become cloud savvy, they will demand transparency. This means that cloud providers will be best served by building robust monitoring and usage tracking functionality into their offerings and by helping their customers create a comprehensive cloud strategy according to their unique needs.