Using cloud platform technology frees your IT staff from doing repetitive maintenance work and allows them to be more responsive to pressing business needs, such as quickly developing and testing a new app for salespeople in the field or creating a new real-time inventory dashboard.

However, all cloud platforms aren't created equal, and, like a marriage or a choice in business partner, choosing a cloud platform is an important decision you will have to live with for a while. The wrong decision upfront can impact your business's ability to connect easily to other applications and innovate quickly in the future. And, the hidden costs to the business can escalate before you know it.

Misconception 1: All cloud platforms offer the same set of services. Thanks in large part to an ever-growing number of startups, the number of cloud platforms is growing all the time. Most cloud platform providers offer a very limited number of prebuilt services, and many are dedicated to only one type of service, such as storage. Others cobble together a PaaS offering by buying smaller companies. These acquisitions are often separate entities and in no way work together easily, although they may appear integrated on a PowerPoint slide. Often, the acquiring company has no intention of investing millions in R&D to bring the disparate acquired services together, making it harder for customers to use a full service.

And, if you're spending time and resources to integrate your provider's clouds, you're negating one of the benefits of cloud to begin with, which is simplification. Your IT staff will also be spending an inordinate amount of time understanding different cloud provider services and expending effort to try to connect different clouds together, if they can do it at all.

Misconception 2: PaaS is a great catchall solution to providing missing capabilities not found in SaaS applications. Not always. Be on the lookout for SaaS application providers who want you to use their legacy cloud platform so they don't need to improve the functionality of their SaaS apps. They are essentially providing you with an old horse and asking you to buy it a new saddle. Some cloud providers even bury expensive cloud platform development services as part of the monthly fee you pay for in the SaaS application. While bundling is not necessarily a problem, in some cases these providers are really asking you to pay extra for services to substitute for basic functionality that should already be baked into the SaaS application.

Misconception 3: Non-standards-based cloud platforms or open source development languages can bring down costs. Not necessarily. Finding developers for a programming language that is not well known can be difficult and time-consuming-not to mention costly. The laws of supply and demand dictate that hard-to-find programmers are more expensive than programmers of industry-standard development languages such as Java.

Misconception 4: All cloud subscriptions are more or less the same. Not so. Many cloud providers place numerous, complicated restrictions and limitations on the amount of processing cycles customers can generate in the cloud. In other words, this is how much work customers can demand of the platform for the basic subscription fee. Due to restrictions and limitations, customers may be unable to scale the platform to quickly process large amounts of data or perform boiled up analytics that require significant amounts of processing power.

Misconception 5: All clouds are built using the same architecture. Many providers have designed their cloud platforms to be most cost-effective for them to "run and manage"-rather than more convenient for their customers-leaving their customers susceptible to what's often called "noisy neighbor syndrome." This happens because their platform forces customers to end up sharing the same database and processing power. Think of an apartment building where everyone is sharing the same hot water supply-if many neighbors decide to take a long shower at the same time, they'll get a truly chilling experience!

To deal with this and other platform design challenges, many cloud providers have put caps on the amount of processing you can do with their platform services so that their entire cloud application doesn't go down or slow down. Imagine if you had all customers sharing the same application in the cloud and one customer hogs all the processing power within the cloud application-all the other customers' response times will slow down, way down. One cloud provider has a long list of more than 50 pages containing these caps and limitations. Dealing with these caps actually adds hidden costs and development time to extend or create new applications. A modern, personalized cloud platform does not have this problem.

How to Get Safely to the Cloud

I've highlighted some of the hidden aspects of the cloud and cloud platforms, which is something like pointing out the potential dangers of a road less traveled. But at the end of the day, you'll still want to travel. To do so safely, here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a single, well-known, standards-based cloud platform across your entire business. That will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, allow you to innovate faster, and avoid unnecessary headaches.
  • Use a provider that doesn't lock you in to its platform by using lesser-known proprietary languages or databases.
  • Look for a cloud platform that connects easily with its own SaaS applications, and also allows you to move your SaaS applications, if you choose, to another platform.
  • Finally, choose a provider that has many prebuilt services at every layer so your business can innovate quickly while maintaining governance and standards across your entire business.
Starting with a secure cloud platform as a foundation, built on widely known standards, you can save your company time and money and position your business well into the future.

Lisa M. Schwartz is senior product marketing director for cloud applications at Oracle. Follow her at @Leeza2020.
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