Quick, what is the biggest knock against cloud computing? Is it the difficulty of migrating existing applications? Is it the legal, regulatory, and business risk posed by using external computing power outside of a company's own data center? Is it the lack of SLAs available from cloud providers? Is it the fact that cloud TCO is purported to be higher than running systems internally? Or is the lack of traditional system management tools for cloud applications?
In previous posts, I discussed each of these barriers to enterprise adoption of cloud computing. For each of them, I noted that the situation is not nearly as bleak as portrayed by people who bring these issues up. For example, with respect to the lack of SLAs, I noted that some cloud providers are providing SLAs. I also discussed the fact that many SLAs offered by non-cloud service providers (e.g., outsourcers) aren't really very effective-they don't guarantee uptime; rather, they provide for penalties if (when?) the provider fails to deliver the agreed-upon uptime. Moreover, the penalties are typically quite constrained, usually limited to a refund of the service provider's fee for the period of time for which service is unavailable. In other words, the SLA penalty doesn't cover the user's business losses, it just covers the cost of provider's service. So denying the potential of cloud computing by asserting its SLA shortcomings is a rationalization, not a reason.
Each of the items I covered can be looked at from the same perspective. Examined with a non-judgmental eye, each has ways it can be mitigated. Certainly none is an insurmountable barrier.
Interestingly, it seems many readers interpreted my pieces as truly negative about cloud computing-that is, that I agreed that each of the barriers was a complete roadblock to cloud use. I received a number of comments that showed that the reader had not fully read (or perhaps comprehended) my posts. On the other hand, there were a number of comments that reinforced the perspective that cloud computing is not "ready for prime-time."
That's not really surprising. Any time there is a sea change in technology, many people criticize the new technology as lacking certain key features. I remember hearing similar statements as the Internet wave crashed down upon IT. "You're going to let outsiders access your systems? That's crazy." "The bandwidth is insufficient for any real applications to run." "It isn't secure enough." "You can't find people with the right skills." And by the standards of the prevous generation of technology, these observations had some truth to them. In the early days, Internet security practices were inconsistent and incomplete. However, in many respects the existing solutions weren't really demonstrably better in the areas being criticized, and definitely had shortcomings of their own.
This process goes on today. I just read a posting that someone put up yesterday on a cloud computing forum, criticizing virtualization:
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