Cloud computing might turn out to be a cost-saver, but that's almost beside the point.
Focusing chiefly on the potential for cost savings -- real or imagined -- can overshadow the transformative potential for faster, more agile development and furthering the business objectives of the enterprise, a panel of cloud experts recently observed.
"Putting too much emphasis on just the cost takes away a lot that cloud has to offer," Amit Khanna, vice president and global head of cloud practice at Virtusa, an IT consultancy, said in an online discussion hosted by Amazon's AWS division.
John Rymer, vice president and principal analyst at the research group Forrester, urges firms working on a cloud platform to push the pace of applications development, noting that some are even using their customers as the initial testers of a "minimum viable product."
"People are using cloud-based environments to test ideas in days," Rymer says.
"They can very quickly find out whether they're on the right track, and they're doing so by actually producing software that they can see, including their customers," he adds. "This is dramatic. I mean, this just changes your ability to respond to business opportunities."
Forrester is forecasting what Rymer describes as a period of "hypergrowth" for cloud computing, anticipating that spending on public cloud alone will soar from $91 billion in 2015 to $191 billion in 2020. The lion's share of that growth will come in the form of cloud apps in a software-as-a-service model, followed by spending on platform and infrastructure deployments.
"For CIOs, the message is clear: Shift into the driver seat, or others will," Forrester said in releasing its cloud forecast.
"A lot of enterprises are voting with their budgets and they're adopting cloud across the board," Rymer says
Small wonder then, that for many organizations, the first question about the cloud is a settled matter -- not a question of if, but when, and how.
Cloud is the next platform
"The bottom line here is ... cloud is the next platform," Rymer says. "We don't get a lot of questions from clients anymore about whether or not they're going to go to public clouds. It's really how do we get there."
So how do they get there? To Forrester, it is essential to bridge the gap between the IT shop and the business lines of an organization.
Rymer also notes that the on-demand, "pay-as-you-go" pricing structure that many cloud vendors offer is a marked departure from the way that the individuals responsible for budgeting within an organization operate, so it might be wise to give them a seat at the table, as well.
"Change your organization structures," Rymer says. "The whole theme here is to be responsive, and so app-dev organization structures have to be much more closely connected to the business than they ever have been before."