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Cloud_TonicAt the VMworld conference a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to several customers who are being approached by people who purport to offer magical cloud services that (at least according to the vendors) make life effortless, compliant, secure, and error-free.

This is a recurring problem in IT: some hot topic emerges, and lots of vendors suddenly come out with PowerPoint slides and white papers that make them sound like the cure for all your ills. I’ve seen this a lot…

  • SOX – remember when every vendor claimed “we do SOX”?
  • Collaboration – your business will be awesome because we “do collaboration”
  • ASP (hosted apps) – your IT life will be awesome because we doo all the work for you (yeah, right…)
  • Appliances – you just plug it in and turn it on and everything is perfect
  • Virtualization – You just deploy a VM and *bam* – your business saves money, goes green, scales, etc.

Now, the snake oil is setting in around the cloud. Of course, the cloud will make all your dreams come true, right?

Here’s my reality check: If you own the business, you own the strategy and execution and you can’t outsource accountability. Be careful about falling for the siren song of technology – it is there to support your business, not define it.

Here are some thoughts (my opinion – feel free to disagree or improve this list):

  • Start with your strategy, define what successful outcomes look like, define your execution plan, then select the technologies that support the business.
  • Remember – you also have to deal with people and process, as technology alone is seldom the answer.
  • When it comes to vendor promises, trust but verify. Insist on references, do pilot / proof-of-concept implementations if you can, and be very clear about their commitments vs. your expectations.
  • Be realistic. We all want instant results, but make sure you allow time for processes and habits to change, and spend time planning and understanding risks before you flip the switch to a new service or technology.
  • Make sure you have visibility and instrumentation to know what’s working and what’s not. That includes service levels / availability, processes, policies, compliance, transactions, throughput, and costs.

What about you – have you bought IT Snake Oil? If so, have any hard-won lessons to share, or additions to this list? I’d love to hear them.