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Enter the Cloud with Caution

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According to Wikipedia, Cloud Computing "is a style of computing where IT-related capabilities are provided as a service:

The majority of cloud computing infrastructure currently consists of reliable services delivered through next-generation data centers that are built on compute and storage virtualization technologies. The services are accessible anywhere in the world, with The Cloud appearing as a single point of access for all the computing needs of consumers.

This week, Harry Lewis, Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University wrote an article recommending:

Enter[ing] the Cloud with Caution

Lewis points as the difficulty of maintaining operational computers as the main incentive to move to managed capabilities "in the cloud":

Prices are low, and you pay only for what you use. ...Let others worry about projecting demand and acquiring systems that may be obsolete almost as soon as they are delivered; you focus on your widget business. What's not to like about these deals?

He notes that today:

all the major players are in the game, and many minor players too. Google added Google Docs so a company's dispersed offices can share memos and databases without e-mailing them... Microsoft joined the fray with Office Live [and Live Mesh]. IBM's Blue Cloud and Amazon's "Simple Storage Service" and "Elastic Compute Cloud" offer massive computing capabilities to small and large customers alike.

Even though the benefits seem clear he recommends to explore these questions:

  • Who else might see the data?
  • What if you [can't] pay the bill?
  • Does the cloud back up your data?
  • What if your service provider enters your business?
  • What if you do business abroad?
  • What does the cloud expect of you?
  • What's the access control?
  • Do you want your employees getting advertising along with [business capabilities]?

Judith Hurwitz, Industry Analyst and Consultant suggests that:

CIOs are not seriously thinking about Cloud Computing

Which she says bears the question:

Is this a leading indicator on this emerging market or is it looking in the rearview mirror?

She votes for the latter:

Many CIOs and IT managers simply don’t understand what this means. ... [it is a] fear of the unknown....I have yet to see an article or announcement from a major vendor that makes it clear what a cloud really is.

She sees some hope:

Today companies tend to use clouds for a specific test environment or to in essence host an application by a trusted supplier.

Over time, I think that CIOs will come around and accept that Cloud Computing is actually a valuable approach that is cost effective and trustworthy

She comes with her set of guidelines to help make a case for using Cloud Computing:

  • Many problems are already surfacing because the existing cloud environment cannot scale and does not have a sophisticated management capability.
  • What exactly does the organization want to use a cloud for?
  • Does the organization view a cloud as a standalone environment for one use?
  • What happens if the cloud fails?
  • How proprietary is the cloud and how does that impact integration?

Cloud computing seems inevitable, simply because of its business case. Are you using cloud computing services today in the Enterprise? what kind of challenges are you facing (integration and silos, reporting, management & monitoring, bandwidth, performance...)? What's missing in the clouds? Could a large part of the Cloud end up being a "desktop virtualization" capability? Who will own the cloud?

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