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Preparing for the real costs of cloud computing

Bob Violino | Aug. 15, 2011
Plan ahead to avoid the gotchas that can make you blow your budget.

In general, though, using public cloud services for purposes other than storage eliminates the need to deploy and maintain the applications internally. The company has been using public cloud services for about two years and now uses 11 different cloud-based applications from service providers including, SuccessFactors, ADP, WebEx and Yammer. This has led to cost savings that greatly outweigh any of the unexpected costs, Alvarez says.

Integrating apps from multiple vendors

Pacific Coast Building Products, a Rancho Cordova, Calif., provider of building products, wants to start using cloud computing in a big way, and has evaluated cloud services from several providers. But the company has limited its cloud usage so far because the economics are not quite there yet, says Mike O'Dell, CIO.

Mike O'Dell
The costs of integrating two key applications stopped Pacific Coast Building Products from going with the cloud in a big way, says Mike O'Dell, CIO.

One of the reasons for this is the difficulty of integrating software applications from disparate vendors on the cloud, and the fact that providing this integration on its own would drive up the cost of cloud computing for Pacific Coast.

For example, the company uses Microsoft Exchange for email and Cisco's Unity Unified Messaging for voicemail, and is interested in using both of these applications as cloud services. "Integration between [these applications] in the cloud, at least the last time we looked, wasn't there," O'Dell says.

Without the integration, users wouldn't be able to leverage some of the capabilities they have now, such as automatic deletion of voicemail messages on their phones when they receive the messages via email.

The same sorts of integration challenges exist with other applications that are larger and more complex, such as ERP, O'Dell says.

"On the SAP side, for us to put that in the cloud means we have to give up features or spend a lot of money on integration," O'Dell says. "Maybe it's just a matter of immature technology, but the integration side is where the hidden costs are. If you don't look at this right out of the gate, you might not be as happy with the economics at the end as you thought you would be."

Testing software

Not every application is ready for the cloud, and that can result in added costs for cloud users.

"We bumped into some expense that we did not expect for testing and debugging a vendor app that had not been run in a cloud configuration before," says Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT and CIO at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Bill Thirsk
Using servers that weren't approved by the cloud software vendor cost some time and money to test and find where the problems were, says Bill Thirsk, CIO at Marist College.


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