Cloud is catching on big time, but there's still a learning curve for those in the channel starting to build their own practices. And for end customers, there may even be a larger learning curve. The good news is there are a few lessons that can be learned from the top cloud computing and hosting providers in the world. And Forrester has come up with a list of five lessons to be learned when it comes to data center and IT infrastructure.

A report issued by James Staten and Richard Fichera titled, "Five Data Center And IT Infrastructure Lessons from the Cloud Giants" was based on interviews with executives from 10 of the top cloud and hosting providers, including Amazon (AMZN), Backblaze, Colt, DRT, Microsoft (MSFT), Peak, Rackspace (RAX), Salesforce.com (CRM), Savvis and ViaWest.

The lessons? Here they are:

  1. Bring IT process automation to the facilities level. According to the authors, the advanced power and cooling management systems used by large cloud providers have become available to enterprises, but also available are commercial services to help with external power arbitrage and management. 
  2. Prioritize speed-to-market and standardization over customization. Staten and Fichera noted that customized infrastructures are unsustainable and are often not even aligned with business needs.
  3. Automate basic IT infrastructure processes. "One of the main differences between enterprise IT shops and the web giants is the level of IT process automation," the authors wrote. It's not easy to turn manual processes into automated ones, but as automation tools continue to mature, it's getting easier. And the business benefits are surely there.
  4. Shift from infrastructure management to infrastructure service delivery. As the authors wrote, "Start shifting workloads to a small set of standard configurations that will be automatically deployed. Time-to-market trumps specific configuration demands when the two are positioned as tradeoffs for one another. This shift goes beyond technology dependencies and should also be applied to your staffing model."
  5. Break down organizational silos. This isn't exactly a new message, but many organizations are still very much operating in silos. But inside the top cloud and hosting providers, they have stripped away those silos in favor of tight coordination between IT teams to drive greater SLA achievement.

They're lessons that midmarket and enterprises organizations—as well as cloud services providers of all sizes—can take to heart.

If nothing else, the report has two key takeaway recommendations. First, if your data center can't be made efficient, it's time to shift to one that is. Second, embrace the hybrid model of a mix of internal and external servers.