Sitting in my hot tub with my wife in central Wisconsin in February made me think about private cloud computing. Why? I was perfectly comfortable where I was, but I knew that eventually I was going to need to get out and make a run across the deck through below-freezing temperatures. I was going to need speed and agility. Which, of course, is the same reason for implementing private cloud computing.
ROI isn’t always going to be in terms of reduced costs. Sometimes it’s about improved quality of service. Sometimes it’s about agility. Sometimes it’s about all three. IT tends to think about IT investments in terms of cost-recovery, which is a wonderful thing. But the biggest benefit of private cloud computing is not going to be lower costs. Yes, automation can eliminate rote manual tasks and save operational expenses, but automation isn’t free. The biggest benefit of private cloud computing is agility. As in, business agility. As in, an investment that helps IT’s customers do more, faster, experiment more often, ramp up, ramp down, beat the competition, grow the business.
The business case for private cloud really requires the business to be involved. If the business, for some reason, sees no value in speed and agility, private cloud is likely a wasted investment. I’ve seen examples of private clouds deployed by IT without business involvement, and then – surprise, surprise – no one used it. Cloud Fail. I’ve also had IT organizations come to me saying they weren’t going to build private cloud services because they couldn’t reduce IT costs in the process. That’s doing a disservice to business customers who might be willing to invest to improve IT services in certain areas.
The good news is large IT organizations seem to get it. In a December 2011 poll at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas, attendees were asked, “What is your main driver in moving to private clouds?”. 59% said “agility” – only 21% said “cost”. These folks get it. Sometimes you need to improve the bottom line with lower costs. Sometimes you just have to get from the hot tub without getting frostbite. Or get inside and lock the door before your wife can make it there. Priceless.