In a session at the SharePoint Connect 2014 conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands this week, I conducted a session that outlined some of the hybrid options available to SharePoint business decision-makers with the intent of helping participants carve a path for their organizations toward the cloud. At the core of my presentation was a July 2014 survey of 101 CIOs in the US and Europe, conducted by UBS AG and reported in the Wall Street Journal, where participants shared their concerns and reasoning for delaying a full-scale migration of production systems to the cloud.
Looking back at my career in cloud and collaboration technologies, in many ways the concerns expressed by CIOs today about moving their intellectual property into public, and even private, cloud platforms are very close to the concerns expressed by CIOs when I entered the space in early 2001. At a previous venture capital-backed collaboration and supply chain integration vendor, we regularly fought the battle to convince our customers (and even some of our investors) that our hosted platform was as secure, if not more secure, than their on-premises deployments.
According to the survey, the chief concerns for moving to the cloud included:
- Key on premises features not yet available
- Concerns over time and cost of re-architecting business-critical systems
- Risk associated with potentially unreliable Internet connections
- Dependence on third-parties to manage servers
- An improving coexistence story
While there are valid reasons for some workloads remaining on premises, for most companies investigating their cloud options, none of these reasons should be a roadblock to moving some or all collaboration workloads into the cloud. In my presentation, I tried to provide some degree of risk mitigation around each concern:
- While there is not yet full parity between features available on premises and online, core functionality is in place that should allow the vast majority of SharePoint content, sites, and business processes to move to the cloud. Microsoft has amped up the transparency of their product roadmap around any feature gaps, or will work with customers and partners to identify where third-party solutions or alternative configurations may fill those gaps.
- The primary concerns surrounding re-architecture have to do with complex customizations, custom coded solutions, and third-party add-ons. Microsoft's proposed best practice is to examine your business requirements and decide whether the current platform even needs to be re-architected for the cloud, or whether reduced requirements and out-of-the-box capabilities is acceptable. Where re-architecture or re-design is required, Microsoft is working to provide tools and solutions to support hybrid models, however long the transition toward the cloud.
- Cloud performance is a core strategy of Microsoft's expansion planning, with the company recently opening a data center in Australia, with plans for future locations around the globe to support aggressive customer growth plans. Bandwidth latency and optimization should play into choices around server location (customers have some control here) and end user locations and activities, as with any other system design.
- Microsoft has spent much of the last two years building up customer and partner evidence to show that their platform is secure and reliable, much of it available through the Office 365 Trust Center. They have added a long list of international certifications to ensure that customer privacy, security, and compliance concerns are being resolved.
- And finally, within the last year Microsoft has repeatedly voiced their support for both on premises and hybrid SharePoint environments into the foreseeable future. While the company continues to focus their innovation around a cloud and mobile-first strategy, innovations are also coming to on premises and hybrid platforms, making the transition to the cloud—no matter how long it might take a customer to make the move—as smooth as possible.
While the general vibe of the UBS AG survey, in my view, is a firm push back on movement toward the cloud, interestingly, the research found that "more than half (of respondents) would move some workloads to a public cloud, but it would be more of a gradual process, while a third of respondents said they were moving to a public cloud as quickly as possible." (http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-big-companies-delay-using-the-cloud-for-some-applications-1405555098)
The more customers I speak with on the topic, the less resistance I hear to the idea of moving to the cloud. For most SharePoint customers, it's not so much a question of if, but when. Companies are looking closely at their existing systems and requirements and making an effort to understand what can move to the cloud—and what should move to the cloud.
You can find my entire presentation from #SPcon14 (Hybrid SharePoint Solutions for the Business Decision-Maker) on SlideShare at http://slidesha.re/1vndqYC.