TORONTO—During a roundtable of IT leaders discussing their paths to cloud adoption, one HP Canada exec joked he is sometimes tempted to run a “Why Bother Workshop” to help customers understand if and how to tackle the not-so-simple matter of cloud technologies and how that might benefit their business.

“I usually start with the question, ‘Why bother?’” said Bill Dupley, chief solutions manager with Hewlett-Packard Canada Co., to the group on Wednesday. HP moved its IT infrastructure to a private cloud in 2008, reducing maintenance from 72 to 20 per cent.

The decision to adopt the cloud in any company is essentially a business project because the business units control their IT budget and manage their apps and desired service levels, Dupley pointed out. But this can also be a barrier to cloud adoption and also to reaping the true benefit got only from company-wide adoption, not hodgepodge projects.

But Dupley said the emergence of enterprise-class cloud services to market in the past year is affording businesses more options. Now, they must identify the business driver to adopting cloud services because it’s hardly a simple matter, he added.

For Doug Caldwell, chief information officer with Brampton, Ont.-based engineering company Trow Associates Inc., a “Why Bother Workshop,” although useful, was not really necessary for him because the existing infrastructure was barely manageable as is.

“So, there really was the business case,” said Caldwell in an interview with ComputerWorld Canada. “The ‘Why bother?’ We had to make it better.”

Faced with the challenge of 110 offices dispersed across North America and with as many approaches to IT management, Trow Associates used virtualization technology to first centralize management of systems acquired through various mergers and acquisitions.

The next step, said Caldwell, is to consider whether each app and service should be kept on-premise or sent to a private or public cloud.

Also at the roundtable was Own the Podium, a Calgary-based sports technical program to help Canadian athletes with performance training. The motivation for the organization to embrace the cloud was to have scalability across the Olympic Games’ four-year cycles.

Another driver was the need to support the large community of athletes, coaches and scientists that depend on the data they provide such as performance analysis and fund figures.

Jason Cox, the IT manager—the sole IT person, actually—with Own the Podium, told ComputerWorld Canada the cloud would allow the organization to cut costs by keeping a lean IT infrastructure given it wouldn’t have to worry about servers, patch management and service level agreements.

“The ability to use the cloud versus building the infrastructure on site was a no-brainer,” said Cox.

Own the Podium faced no particular challenges in its path to the cloud, except some concerns about the type of data that would reside offsite. “Some of the data we may be moving towards will be more sensitive,” said Cox.

But this may be as far as Own the Podium takes its cloud journey. Cox said the small size of the organization means some things are cheaper kept on-premise. “I can invest money into one server that will do Exchange, Active Directory, file storage and all that stuff in-house,” said Cox. “It ends up costing us a little bit more to move that to the cloud.”

Thomas Bittman, vice-president and distinguished analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research Inc., cautions organizations just starting on a cloud path to start small but plan to transform further over time. “If you dip your toe in the water and you lean too far, you’re going to fall in,” Bittman told the roundtable.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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