Cloud Computing: 5 Things No One Will Tell You


By Tony Kontzer

A few months ago, I was hired to produce an array of case studies for a planned book on cloud computing. In the weeks since, I've interviewed companies throughout Europe and the U.S. on their cloud strategies, and although I can't get into any of the specifics, some of the general themes I uncovered could help IT execs who are preparing for a move into the cloud.

Mind you, most of the companies I spoke with are large enterprises, an indication that cloud computing is maturing into a viable alternative to traditional corporate IT. These companies have been turning to the cloud for all sorts of reasons, and employing a variety of strategies to accomplish the transition.

Let's face it--at this point, the business benefits of the cloud are no longer questioned. Cloud computing in its various forms delivers well-documented gains in business agility, reduction in deployment costs, and improved user satisfaction. But what are some of the things we haven't been reading about the cloud?

1) Fears related to security in the cloud are greatly exaggerated. This isn't to say that security-conscious enterprises shouldn't do their due diligence about any cloud provider being considered. But the overwhelming majority of IT execs I've been talking to agree that the top cloud providers devote way more money and attention to security than pretty much any corporate IT department.

2) The real fears should be on the legal front. The bottom line here is this: There is way too much legal ambiguity when it comes to conducting business in the cloud. Laws are few and far between to protect cloud customers and hold cloud vendors responsible when issues arise, and IT execs are right to want to know where the possibility of legal exposure lurks.

3) For younger technologists and users, there is no acceptable alternative to the cloud. Pretty much anyone under the age of 30 who's technologically inclined will tell you that it makes no sense to deploy any application (or computing resource in general) that's not delivered as a Web-based service. Whether they're right is not the issue; these are the business and IT decision-makers of the future.

4) Cloud testing centers are all the rage. As has long been the case with packaged applications, large companies need to be able to kick the proverbial tires so they'll know that the technologies they roll out will work as hoped. In these centers, enterprise customers work with cloud providers not only to see cloud technologies in action, but also to develop standards and best practices for deploying, integrating and building cloud services.

5) A whole new type of IT worker is now in vogue. Out are the database administrators and helpdesk staff of yesteryear; in are the project managers and contract specialists who can help companies get the most out of their cloud environments. And extracting the cloud's full value isn't a matter of bits and bytes. It's a matter of knowing what's needed and when, and how to get the best terms in securing it.

So what's the moral of the story? Cloud computing may be ushering in an era of change that's sometimes painful, but it's also helping IT to achieve the long sought-after goal of being able to focus on helping the business. Isn't this preferrable to overseeing an expensive IT infrastructure and an unwieldy set of complex applications that may or may not provide competitive advantage?

In other words, as cloud computing evolves, IT is evolving right along with it.