Cloud Migration Turbulence Continues, Survey Says - InformationWeek

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Cloud Migration Turbulence Continues, Survey Says

Many companies are "flying blind" in their efforts to embrace the cloud, a VMware-sponsored survey says.

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Many enterprise users are reporting unexpected challenges in their move to the cloud and would like more visibility into their workloads there, according to a survey of more than 400 IT professionals in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific by Enterprise Management Associates.

The 415 survey participants reported using an average of three cloud vendors. Early customers of cloud services have found that the realities of operating a cloud footprint can include unpleasant surprises, Enterprise Management Associates said in a report based on its survey. As customers move workloads, using the cloud's reputed scalability is not unlike the process for other complex IT systems -- it must be monitored and managed to work.

"Easy scalability depends on a watchful eye identifying and correcting problems. Unfortunately, many IT organizations lack the skills they need to perform these tasks," the report said. "In part, this is because clouds represent an entirely new platform -- from their pricing models to their operational metrics -- and thus require entirely new expertise."

As a result, many companies are "flying blind" in their efforts to embrace the cloud.

[Want to learn more about the launch of vCloud Hybrid Service? See VMWare Reveals Hybrid Cloud Details.]

Do the report's conclusions seem pessimistic? Keep in mind that the survey was sponsored by VMware and one of its cloud partners, iland.

Contrary to the survey's assessment, many young companies -- and some mature ones -- have seized the option of cloud computing and made it a key part of their business strategy. But the survey claims that a large number of companies have also experienced difficulties in their early encounters with the cloud. That angle may shed light on how the cloud experience is unfolding for companies that don't claim to be successful trailblazers. And for all the difficulties the survey reports, it concludes on a somewhat contradictory note, saying that quitting isn't an option. The enterprise now wants the advantages of cloud computing, and IT needs to deliver.

"IT organizations will continue to move briskly toward greater and greater cloud footprints. By standing on the shoulders of the experiences of their peers, success in the cloud is within reach," the report said.

Among the survey's provider-specific findings:

  • 57% of the customers who tried Amazon Web Services experienced a stall or failure; 43% adopted it.
  • 56% of customers who turned to Microsoft Azure experienced a stall or failure; 44% adopted it.
  • 63% of customers who tried Rackspace experienced a stall or failure; 37% adopted it.
  • 33% of customers who tried VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service or the vCloud at a VMware partner experienced a stall or failure; 67% adopted it.

The specific questions asked in the survey were not available, so it's difficult to know exactly what these figures mean. For example, how did the question pose the "stall or failure" experience? One workload stalled or failed? All workloads stalled or failed simultaneously? After experiencing one failure on Amazon, did the unhappy customer depart, or did some customers learn from failure and become successful Amazon users?

Lilac Schoenbeck, vice presdient of product management at iland, did not offer a detailed followup. She told us that the survey wasn't intended to be an in-depth look at individual providers. "Like every survey, you can think of 10 more questions to ask" when you see the final results.

It's reasonable to assume that Amazon, which boasts a much larger share of cloud customers, would offer the chance to capture many more reported incidents of stalling or failure. Without supporting information, the results may indicate mainly that VMware's vCloud, which launched in May 2013, simply came late to the party. Also, its early users are most conversant in vSphere and the vCloud software product line from VMware, minimizing their chance of experiencing failed workloads. Bill Fathers, VMware's general manager of vCloud services, said at last week's Structure 2014 conference that related management tools and a shared user interface were among the main advantages of using vCloud services.

Other pain points, however, appear to be shared by many users across multiple vendors. For example, understanding cloud pricing was a challenge to 38% of cloud users globally. Getting technical support was the chief complaint from US cloud users, while performance and downtime topped the list for users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific.

Performance tied for first place among challenges, with 38% of respondents reporting issues there. "Different clouds are architected with different back ends, and some are more susceptible to 'noisy neighbor' syndrome than others," the report said.

Another 36% cited the difficulty of getting "adequate levels of hands-on expertise" in their support problems. "The realities of cloud support contracts often take customers by surprise. Simple email or ticketing support may only be available to customers at lower tiers."

Downtime was cited by 35% of respondents as an unexpected challenge in using the cloud.

Both management and scalability remained a challenge for 33% of respondents. "Cloud vendors often focus on innovation of the technology in lieu of improving simple cloud service management."

Of the 415 IT professionals interviewed for the survey, 15% came from companies with 500-999 employees, 46% from companies with 1,000-4,999 employees, 15% from companies with 5,000-9,999 employees, and 24% from companies with more than 10,000 employees.

No one disputes the convenience of public cloud services. But when you look forward three or five years, the cost picture for enterprises is murky, even in light of the price war among Google, Amazon, and Rackspace. InformationWeek is conducting a survey on the ROI of public cloud services. This survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete, and you'll be eligible to win a prize. Take the InformationWeek 2014 Cloud ROI Survey today. Survey ends June 27.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 11:25:29 AM
In regards to the pain point of adequate hands-on support expertise for the cloud
I have been on the incoming tech support call side of a medium size VMWare public, private and hybrid cloud vendor for years.  The most important aspect of any cloud support is making sure you have the right tools and your people have the right training and critical thinking.  Let me elaborate some.

If your cloud tech support group is split into groups that are typical of corporate support infrastructure, then you are going to be inefficient, clumsy and play the typical support group blame game more often than not.  You cannot use tradtional groups that have the blinders on, manage their own little world and have no responsibility to the overall IaaS infrastructure. You will usually find Networking, SAN, OS and Hypervisor (VMWare, KVM/Openstack, etc...) support groups, each with their own monitoring and diagnosis tools, and each passing the tech support ticket around.

To be efficient, and address problems in a timely manner, you have to have a multi-discipline team of 3rd level heavy-hitting support techs. Those level of techs are expensive to hire. They need a CCNA level (at minimum) understanding of networking and routing, they need a solid understanding of the SAN infrastructure and its limitations, and more importantly, the tools to graph the performance and IOPS loads.  They need to be versed in monitoring and diagnosis of hypervisor issues, and be able to understand the trending and history in the vCenter graphs, as well as the Operating System built-in monitoring tools.  They need a medium understanding of Linux and Windows.

Let's talk about tools.  To pull together an efficient cloud troubleshooting team, you need multiple performance monitoring and graphing tools, and, they need to provide trending data for up to three months or more.  These tools need to be available to the team in the form of tools that can be accessed from the desktop, and tools that are displayed on large TV/monitors like a NOC would use.  We use the 42" TV's to monitor the health of our primary data center routers, the overall health of our SAN's and the overall health of our hypervisor clusters and the bare metal they run on.  The techs have access to all those tools and more, but with the ability to go very granular in the data they look at, and the ability to look back at historical trend data.

I simply cannot stress enough how important it is to have access to these tools and the data.  We each use (at least) three large monitors at our workstations, because we need to see the SAN/Volume performance, Network performance, Hypervisor performance and OS perfomance at the same time to make quick, accurate correlations when running down a problem in the cloud.  Some of the tools we use are Orion Solarwinds, Cacti, SAN vendor monitoring/graphing, vCenter, top (linux), task manager (Windows), ESXTOP (hypervisor command line) and an understanding of how to use each one and how to correlate problems seen in one area, to problems cropping up in another area.

Add to this, customer expectations that you know something about databases, IIS, Apache, Exchange, Sharepoint, various CMS systems, Active Directory and firewalls/ports/ACLs, among others, and you can see why it is hard to find cloud troubleshooters that know how to do it right.

User Rank: Ninja
6/28/2014 | 6:08:01 AM
Re: Cloud computing not there yet
Quite a number of enterprise users are reporting unexpected challenges in their move to the cloud and would like more visibility into their workloads. Early customers of cloud services have found that the realities of operating a cloud footprint can include unpleasant surprises. Using the clouds to move workloads must be monitored and managed to work and the clouds are believed to give easy scalability which depends on a watchful eye identifying and correcting problems. Unfortunately, many IT organizations lack the skills they need to perform these tasks. Using clouds is a new technology with a relatively new pricing of models to their mode of operation. Research is still underway to improve this technology and to find out if it is what everyone needs.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2014 | 10:03:18 AM
Re: What "stalled/failed" means...
Sure, "failed" are clear failures-- where the attempt to move to workloads to the public IaaS provider was abanndoned . "Stalled" represents a delay beyond initial expectations-- which could in turn lead to failure, or an eventual move public IaaS at a later date. Both represent failures of a kind-- in that critical handshake between CSP and IT. Both represent breakages in that ciritcal partnership.
User Rank: Author
6/25/2014 | 3:46:23 PM
Re: VMware overall, not vCHS in particular
Thanks Dennis. Can you clarify the stalled/failed point as well?
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2014 | 1:57:07 PM
VMware overall, not vCHS in particular
As one of the EMA analysts involved with the research, I would like to clarify that the VMware data refers not to VMware's own cloud service (vCloud Hybrid Services) in particular, but to public IaaS providers in general leveraging VMware.  So the overall positive results there reflect a much broader base. 
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2014 | 9:32:43 PM
Re: What "stalled/failed" means...
During initial deplyment, most people will end up in the stalled phase. You typically have to give it some time before you can deem the effort a failure or just give up.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2014 | 9:22:18 PM
What "stalled/failed" means...
InformationWeek followed up trying to clarify how the "stalled/failure" percentage was derived, what type of question was asked. The answer: "Respondents had the option to select which vendors they tried, including options for adopted, stalled, tried but failed, etc. The numbers reported are the number of stalled/failed vs. adopted for each platform, with 100% representing the total population who engaged with that platform." Still unanswered: how do we know whether some of the "stalled" customers at time of survey didn't continue to try to use the platform and eventually succeed, thus joining the "adopted" %? Wouldn't be unsusal in learning phase.

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