Cloud computing challenges are numerous and thorny, to be sure. These days, everyone is in the cloud — but that doesn't mean that they've figured out how to overcome all the challenges of cloud computing.
In the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report, 96 percent of IT professionals surveyed said their companies were using cloud computing services, and 92 percent were using the public cloud. On average, organizations are running about 40 percent of their workloads in the cloud, and that percentage is growing.
As companies move more applications to the cloud, the cloud market is booming. According to Gartner, the public cloud market will likely be worth $186.4 billion in 2018, up 21.4 percent over last year. The infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market is growing particularly fast. This segment alone could grow 35.9 percent this year to total $40.8 billion.
However, numerous surveys are finding that organizations still have concerns about cloud computing. While IT leaders are embracing the cloud because of the benefits it offers, they continue to face very significant cloud computing challenges, including the following:
Cloud Computing Challenge 1: Security
Since the advent of the public cloud, enterprises have worried about potential security risks, and that hasn't changed. In the RightScale survey, it was the number one challenge cited by respondents, with 77 percent saying that cloud security is a challenge, including 29 percent who called it a significant challenge.
Cybersecurity experts are even more concerned about cloud security than other IT staffers are. A 2018 Crowd Research Partners survey found that 90 percent of security professionals are concerned about cloud security. More specifically, they have fears about data loss and leakage (67 percent), data privacy (61 percent) and breaches of confidentiality (53 percent).
Interestingly, though, security concerns appear to be waning as time passes, particularly among companies that have been using the cloud longer. The RightScale report noted, "As companies become more experienced with cloud, the top challenge shifts. Security is the largest issue among cloud beginners, while cost becomes a bigger challenge for intermediate and advanced users."
And in a cloud analytics survey conducted by vendor Teradata, 46 percent of those surveyed pointed to increased security as a potential benefit rather than a challenge of cloud computing.
Vendors offer a myriad of solutions for dealing with cloud security threats. In addition, the Crowd Research Partners survey found that enterprises are relying on training and certification of their IT staff (57 percent) and the security tools offered by public cloud vendors (50 percent) to reduce their risk.
Image Source: RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report
Cloud Computing Challenge 2: Managing Cloud Spending
As previously mentioned, the RightScale report found that for some organizations managing cloud spending has overtaken security as the top cloud computing challenge. By their own estimates, companies are wasting about 30 percent of the money they spend on the cloud.
Organizations make a number of mistakes that can help drive up their costs. Often, developers or other IT workers spin up a cloud instance meant to be used for a short period of time and forget to turn it back off. And many organizations find themselves stymied by the inscrutable cloud pricing schemes that offer multiple opportunities for discounts that organizations might not be utilizing.
Multiple technological solutions can help companies with cloud cost management challenges. For example cloud cost management solutions, automation, containers, serverless services, autoscaling features and the many management tools offered by the cloud vendors may help reduce the scope of the problem. Some organizations have also found success by creating a central cloud team to manage usage and expenses.
Cloud Computing Challenge 3: Lack of Resources/Expertise
Lack of resources and expertise ranked just behind security and cost management among the top cloud implementation challenges in the RightScale survey. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondent listed it as a challenge with 27 percent saying it was a significant challenge.
While many IT workers have been taking steps to boost their cloud computing expertise, employers continue to find it difficult to find workers with the skills they need. And that trend seems likely to continue. The Robert Half Technology 2018 Salary Guide noted, "Technology workers with knowledge of the latest developments in cloud, open source, mobile, big data, security and other technologies will only become more valuable to businesses in the years ahead.
Many companies are hoping to overcome this challenge by hiring more workers with cloud computing certifications or skills. Experts also recommend providing training to existing staff to help get them up to speed with the technology.
Cloud Computing Challenge 4: Governance
Governance and control were fourth in the list of cloud computing challenges in the RightScale survey with 71 percent of respondents calling it a challenge, including 25 percent who see it as a significant challenge.
In this case, one of the greatest benefits of cloud computing — the speed and ease of deploying new computing resources — can become a potential downfall. Many organizations lack visibility into the "shadow IT" used by their employees, and governance becomes particularly challenging in hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments.
Experts say organizations can alleviate some of these cloud computing management issues by following best practices, including establishing and enforcing standards and policies. And multiple vendors offer cloud management software to simplify and automate the process.
Cloud Computing Challenge 5: Compliance
The recent flurry of activity surrounding the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has returned compliance to the forefront for many enterprise IT teams. Among those surveyed by RightScale, 68 percent cited compliance as a top cloud computing challenge, and 21 percent called it a significant challenge.
Interestingly, one aspect of the GDPR law may make compliance easier in the future. The law requires many organizations to appoint a data protection officer who oversees data privacy and security. Assuming these individuals are well-versed in the compliance needs for the organizations where they work, centralizing responsibility for compliance should help companies meet any legal or statutory obligations.
Cloud Computing Challenge 6: Managing Multi-Cloud Environments
Most organizations aren’t using just one cloud. According to the RightScale findings, 81 percent of enterprises are pursuing a multi-cloud strategy, and 51 percent have a hybrid cloud strategy (public and private clouds integrated together). In fact, on average, companies are using 4.8 different public and private clouds.
Multi-cloud environments add to the complexity faced by the IT team. To overcome this challenge, experts recommend best practices like doing research, training employees, actively managing vendor relationships and re-thinking processes and tooling.
Cloud Computing Challenge 7: Migration
While launching a new application in the cloud is a fairly straightforward process, moving an existing application to a cloud computing environment is far more difficult. A Dimensional Research study sponsored by Velostrata found that 62 percent of those surveyed said their cloud migration projects were more difficult than expected. In addition, 64 percent of migration projects took longer than expected, and 55 percent exceeded their budgets.
More specifically, many of the companies migrating applications to the cloud reported time-consuming trouble-shooting (47 percent), difficulty configuring security (46 percent), slow data migration (44 percent), trouble getting migration tools to work properly (40 percent), difficulty syncing data before cutover (38 percent) and downtime during migration (37 percent).
To overcome those challenges the IT leaders surveyed said they wished they had performed more pre-migration testing (56 percent), set a longer project timeline (50 percent), hired an in-house expert (45 percent) and increased their budgets (42 percent).
Cloud Computing Challenge 8: Vendor Lock-In
Currently, a few vendors, namely Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and IBM Cloud, dominate the public cloud market. For both analysts and enterprise IT leaders, this raises the specter of vendor lock-in.
In a Stratoscale Hybrid Cloud Survey, more than 80 percent of those surveyed expressed moderate to high levels of concern about the problem.
"The increasing dominance of the hyperscale IaaS providers creates both enormous opportunities and challenges for end users and other market participants," said Sid Nag, research director at Gartner.
"While it enables efficiencies and cost benefits, organizations need to be cautious about IaaS providers potentially gaining unchecked influence over customers and the market. In response to multicloud adoption trends, organizations will increasingly demand a simpler way to move workloads, applications and data across cloud providers' IaaS offerings without penalties."
Experts recommend that before organizations adopt a particular cloud service they consider how easy it will be to move those workloads to another cloud should future circumstances warrant.
Cloud Computing Challenge 9: Immature Technology
Many cloud computing services are on the cutting edge of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality and advanced big data analytics. The potential downside to access to this new and exciting technology is that the services don't always live up to enterprise expectations in terms of performance, usability and reliability.
In the Teradata survey, 83 percent of the large enterprises surveyed said that the cloud was the best place to run analytics, but 91 percent said analytics workloads weren't moving to the cloud as quickly as they should. Part of the problem, cited by 49 percent of respondents, was immature or low-performing technology.
And unfortunately, the only potential cures for the problem are to adjust expectations, try to build your own solution or wait for the vendors to improve their offerings.
Cloud Computing Challenge 10: Integration
Lastly, many organizations, particularly those with hybrid cloud environments report challenges related to getting their public cloud and on-premise tools and applications to work together. In the Teradata survey, 30 percent of respondents said connecting legacy systems with cloud applications was a barrier to adoption.
Similarly, in a Software One report on cloud spending, 39 percent of those surveyed said connecting legacy systems was one of their biggest concerns when using the cloud.
This challenge, like the others mentioned in this article, is unlikely to disappear any time in the near future. Integrating legacy systems and new cloud-based applications requires time, skill and resources. But many organizations are finding that the benefits of cloud computing outweigh the potential downside of the technology.
Look for the trend toward cloud adoption to continue, despite the potential cloud computing challenges.