Server Hugging and Reasonable Concerns


by Tony Kontzer

The hype surrounding cloud computing remains loud and forceful. If only the uptake by IT departments matched that enthusiasm.

Last week, I attended a half-day conference in San Francisco called "Cloud in Context," hosted by research firm The 451 Group. While everyone on the room seemed to be bullish on cloud computing's future, the elephant in the living room was that very few organizations are betting heavily on it yet.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's a more vocal proponent of the cloud that Rachel Chalmers, 451 Group's research director, even her words had a restrained quality. "In an economy like the one we have now, the acid test of any technology is, is anyone willing to write a purchase order?" said Chalmers.

Oh, sure, a few have. Llubomir Buturovic, VP and chief scientist for Pathworks Diagnostics, which develops tests for identifying cancerous tumors of unknown origin, was on hand to tell attendees how the company's been tapping Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud to accommodate often onerous processing requirements. And Jim Houghton, co-founder and CTO for Adaptivity, talked about how his firm has helped Wachovia and other financial services companies with wide-scale cloud deployments.

But Houghton admitted that even when a department or division within a company implements some aspect of the cloud, the so-called "server hugging" mentality often gets in the way of making those resources more generally available. "Just because I have four Mercedes and I only drive one doesn't mean I'm going to let you drive one of the others," Houghton said.

Chalmers argued that such departmental cloud adoptions, which she calls "under the doors and through the windows," carry a lot of promise because they serve to bring cloud computing to the attention of IT with a stamp of approval from within the organization. But even with such endorsements, CIOs continue to push back on cloud computing because of concerns that it's not up to snuff in the areas of security and availability.

That was the perspective offered at last week's gathering by Yuvinder Kochar, CTO and VP of IT for The Washington Post Co. Kochar told me that he believes cloud computing inevitably will take its place as a critical and widely deployed IT infrastructure strategy, but his message to any audience members considering a fast path to the cloud was clearly one of caution. "The tools around management, security and governance are not as robust as I'd like."

Houghton echoed that sentiment, indicating that early adopters will be taking some lumps as they discover just how complex cloud adoption is. "It's not for the faint of heart, and these lessons will become more and more painful."

The question that looms is, how long will CIOs be willing to wait for cloud computing to become ready for prime time before they scratch it off their priority lists completely?


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