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The Case Against Cloud Computing, Part Five

The Case Against Cloud Computing, Part Five

Cloud's too hard and too costly to manage? No, says Bernard Golden, as he tackles the last of five key concerns about cloud computing in the enterprise.

Let's talk about managing the cloud. Beware, this argument gets heated.

In this series, I've been discussing the common concerns and objections to cloud computing. I started this due to an interesting phenomenon that I noted: in conversations with a number of people from large technology companies that had announced cloud computing initiatives (and these people were actually involved in those initiatives), a number of them intimated that cloud computing isn't ready for enterprises, or that enterprises aren't ready for cloud computing. Intrigued, I decided to probe further into why they thought there were adoption barriers and eventually identified five key issues. In Part 1, I addressed the inability to conveniently migrate existing applications into cloud infrastructures. In Part 2, I tackled legal, regulatory, and business risk. Part 3 discussed concerns about cloud SLAs (or lack thereof). And in Part 4, I explored concerns regarding cloud TCO. In this posting, I will discuss the final objection brought up regarding cloud computing: the lack of sophisticated system management tools.

As stated by one person, enterprises have existing system management tools in place and the new cloud providers don't integrate with them, therefore you can't manage a cloud system. I think that's a bit harsh. All of the cloud providers offer tools to manage systems running in their environments. And there are startups that provide even more sophisticated tools to manage some cloud environments. So, for example, in the case of Amazon EC2, Amazon offers an Ajax-powered web interface for its cloud environment. There is also a very useful Firefox plug-in called Electric Fox. In case those tools are insufficient, companies like RightScale offer systems that provide more fine-grained granularity than that available in the free tools.

Notwithstanding the existence of these cloud system management tools, an issue remains regarding this topic: the inability of the dominant system management tools to manage a mixed environment that incorporates existing data centers as well as an external cloud environment. In short, end users are faced with using two different system management tools, with use of the cloud tool unable to leverage the human capital represented in employee training and experience. And, if there's any truism in enterprise IT, IT groups don't like having to carry two of anything, if they can help it.

However, is the specific case of cloud computing one in which the challenge of carrying two management systems is likely to prove a dealbreaker? After all, as VMware came into data centers, IT groups had to adapt to using two management systems-one for managing VMware systems and one for managing everything else. And, in some sense, that situation was even worse than the internal/cloud split-because IT groups had to use two different management systems on a single virtualized device-one system to manage the hardware and a second to manage the hypervisor and virtualized guests running on that hardware. And IT groups seemed to manage-because the benefit of applying virtualization outweighed the inconvenience of using two management tools.

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