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Top Five Cloud Computing Challenges for 2014

The right cloud strategy can significantly reduce costs, offer instant scalability, and improve business agility

For most organizations, developing a cloud strategy is no longer a matter of "if," but a matter of how. The right cloud strategy can significantly reduce costs, offer instant scalability, and improve business agility. But to get the most from the cloud and position their businesses for the future, IT leaders must understand the trends that are shaping the rapidly changing landscape. Here are five considerations that should be top of mind for any IT decision-maker in the coming year.

1. Providing the best possible user experience.
When it comes to cloud, there's only one thing that matters and that's the user experience. It's easy to forget about the end user while getting caught up in the "arms race" of building and brokering cloud services. When consulting about cloud strategy for a healthcare R&D firm, my colleagues and I were asked the question: "Amazon offers these services, so why don't we?"

At the end of the day, it's the user experience that matters, not the number of cloud services offered or the amount of features available. Spend your time focusing on the experience that best fits your users' needs and company culture rather than increasing the number of services offered.

2. Managing the convergence of mobile and cloud.
This year marks the beginning of a new phase of digitally realized experiences through the combined might of mobile and cloud. Among the most powerful trends in corporate IT, mobile and cloud are quickly becoming two sides of the same coin - one represents a more flexible experience, the other a more flexible platform.

Tablets and smartphones are only the beginning of a new era in which personal medical devices, smart cars, and even drones are all becoming part of the "Internet of things." These devices are by nature collaborative and communicative, and rely on "always connected" cloud services to be effective. How end users access and interact with the cloud on mobile devices is becoming more and more critical to their experience. Companies that wait to incorporate mobile into their cloud strategy will find themselves further behind as the mobile revolution we're witnessing accelerates.

3. Choosing the right mix of cloud for your business.
There are a tremendous amount of cloud service providers out there, and enterprises have many options when it comes to meeting varying workloads and service level requirements. Based on the criteria that matter most to your business, ask the question "where does my application best live?"

Often, a hybrid cloud approach works best: combining public cloud infrastructure and external cloud services with private cloud deployments and on-premises IT systems. Structuring hybrid IT services while maintaining control and assuring data governance as workloads transcend traditional data center boundaries will be a major area of focus for both vendors and enterprises in the coming year. Make sure it is one of yours.

4. Developing a security framework for the new world.
In the old days, the castle-and-moat model for enterprise security was well understood. You put the crown jewels in the castle and created a list of who you'd let the drawbridge down for. This was fine in the pre-cloud era when things inside the castle got updated periodically. In the new paradigm of cloud, however, security quickly becomes a complex web of interrelated policies, with firewalls hosting hundreds if not thousands of access-list entries that no one wants to touch. Workloads are constantly getting spun up (and down), moved to new places to maximize efficiency, and even split up between separate data centers. Control points for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) differ from Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), further complicating security frameworks.

Venture capital agencies have invested heavily in cloud security companies. Cloud security is seen as an emerging and lucrative frontier as IT ecosystems become ever more crucial and intertwined. How does an enterprise tackle this challenge today? Develop policies and a security framework that relates to the business and is easily understood and audited by people outside of IT security. As the security frontier evolves, your framework acts as a compass to evaluate what technology best fits your needs.

5. Keeping application performance high.
How long are you willing to wait for a video to load, or your mobile application to respond before you move on to another task? Chances are a few seconds - maybe a little more. Your users, most likely, aren't any different. If cloud services don't perform well, either they won't be adopted, or they will hamper productivity, causing users to seek alternatives.

Enter application performance management tools, which according to analyst group 451 Research "are following application workloads to the cloud to provide users visibility for modern distributed workloads." These services will be crucial in achieving transparency across an increasingly complex landscape of multi-cloud and multi-platform services. Remember, it's all about the user experience, and over the next year we will see more enterprises investing in tools to help make sense of their cloud application architecture and underlying infrastructure in real-time. Knowing your application and exactly how it maps to the infrastructure is more critical than ever.

More Stories By Anoj Willy

Anoj Willy is Director of Product Development at Trace3, a California-based IT solutions provider with deep expertise in data center, high-performance computing, and cloud technology.

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