Ed Toner, CIO

Blog: The Truth About Predictions

There is one common theme about technology predictions. They tend to be overly optimistic regarding speed of adoption and benefit. They often begin with the phrase, “within five years.”

Technology predictions naturally focus on the big catchphrase of the day, and they seem to always be utopian in nature. Our reliability will be enhanced and, of course, our costs will be lower. Our jobs in technology will be so much easier, or as some have predicted eliminated completely? In fact, some have predicted that we should want to be replaced. Wow, that is not ideal in my opinion!

Do not take worry (I heard this a lot from our guide on a recent trip to Ireland), the future is rarely so clear.   

Is it merely hype, wishful thinking or a misunderstanding of the actual pace of technological change? I believe it’s the combination of a move away from a comprehensive C-level prerequisite which focused on a solid technical background in combination with the belief in the constant hype-cycle espoused by popular media. Oversimplification of the path to adoption, and perhaps some calculated manipulation of information, inflates our expectations of the influence of the flavor of the year technology.

It is always better to take an objective and practical approach that carefully examines claims and finds evidence of expressed capabilities and demonstrated benefits.

I remember one of the first articles I read when I came to the OCIO titled, “State CIOs See Rapid Shift to the Cloud” (May 1, 2015) there was a quote “I suspect that 80-plus percent of our infrastructure will be off our premises and in the cloud somewhere”. I was surprised and thought that perhaps I was way behind and needed to catch up. I had come from a highly regulated private sector environment which at the time had a very small footprint in the cloud.

The truth is that 80-90 percent of states have adopted some cloud services, but states are far from having the majority of their infrastructure in the cloud. According to a 2021 Accenture and NASCIO Cloud Study, “most government organizations still have no more than 20 percent of their workloads in the cloud.” The article goes on to state that “research shows that nearly two-thirds of organizations are dissatisfied with the results to date from their cloud initiatives.”

If you made it this far into the blog you may be under the perception that I am in the anti-cloud camp,but that is surprisingly not the reality. I am in the anti-prediction camp. The cloud is simply another service offering in our portfolio, appropriate for some applications but not all. Utilizing the data collected from the NASCIO Cloud Study we appear to be further along than many states in cloud implementations and our customers are satisfied with the results. The OCIO has embraced and provided a pathway to cloud adoption in situations where the cloud environment is appropriate and effective. However, not all applications are appropriate for either the commercial or government cloud options we utilize. Standard criteria must be taken into consideration before moving State data into a non-State cloud solution. The OCIO Cloud Review Board provides governance, reviews policy, standardizes and maintains multiple cloud services utilized by state agencies.

With this guidance upfront, I believe we have increased the success of many of our cloud migration efforts and have not experienced transitioning workloads out of the cloud. Evidence from the Datacenters 2021 survey found that “48.4% of respondents indicated that they had transitioned (repatriated) a workload or application away from the hyper-scale public cloud providers (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform) to some other venue in the past 12 months.” The largest transition was to the organizations’ own data centers.

Datacenters 2021 Survey

Cloud predictions bring us to the inevitable bookend prediction -- the frequent forecasts I have heard over the years of the data centers’ demise. If you currently host up-to-date highly available systems in your enterprise-level data center (or data centers), where is the ROI (Return on Investment) for your migration to the cloud? If this does not describe your environment, you’re possibly not ready for a movement to the cloud.  Your best course of action may be to begin a modernization effort. I have concluded that the most vocal advocates for cloud migration are those organizations that believe the cloud is The Elusive "Easy Button". It will mysteriously solve legacy problems, the penalties resulting from decades of neglect.

I must admit, the predictions of the death of data centers are personally very appealing. However, the reality is that I have not seen a successfully executed enterprise strategy that transfers everything to the cloud.

I appreciate your efforts each day to provide a high level of customer service to the State and the Citizens of Nebraska!

Ed Toner