Midsize Enterprise Summit: The Cloud's Risks And Rewards

"Start with your workflows. Start with a business-impact analysis. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks?" Cearly said during a general session at the Midsize Enterprise Summit.

Cloud computing's potential benefits include agility and reducing time to market, Cearly said.

"Look at agility before cost with a lot of cloud computing," he said. "Are there workloads to rapidly develop applications to deliver new infrastructure or scale up and down to support your business requirements?"

Of course, reducing costs, such as shifting capital expenses to operational expenses, also is a valuable benefit for many midsize organizations.

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"Look for lower total costs in environments where your resources are volatile," he said.

Prioritize other potential benefits such as reducing operational complexity and having a focused IT effort, Cearly added.

"Look for more standardized offerings," he said, "and leverage provider information. Amazon spends billions of dollars to drive infrastructure and application-level improvements."

Meanwhile, potential problems to consider in implementing cloud computing include calculating the value of a cloud to your organization, as well as security and compliance risks.

"You might have no visibility into implementation details. You have to trust that vendor. Do they have the right disaster-recovery models in place? Can they support the regulatory requirements you have? You've got to examine those," Cearly said.

Other potential pitfalls include transparency and control, technical issues and service assurance, integration and process integrity issues as well as the financial risk involved, he added.

The term "cloud computing" is now at the top of Gartner's hype cycle for technology, Cearly noted.

"There are all sorts of inflated promises. You have to look at those challenges, do careful analysis based on workload and use cases. Don't be blindly jumping into cloud computing," he said.

"We will undoubtedly see abysmal failures with different parts of what people call cloud computing. There is an underlying fundamental shift to a services-based model. Be pragmatic and cautious in the near term," he said.