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.


5 Comments for "Cloud Computing: 5 Things No One Will Tell You"

  • Tony Kontzer March 02, 2011 3:54 pm

    Jeff, thanks for chiming in. If you look again at what I wrote, I asserted that security concerns were over-rated because cloud providers spend more money and attention to security than corporate IT departments. Leaving out the "attention" part obviously makes my claim sound more dubious. In no way do I believe that merely throwing money at a problem is sufficient, but it's certainly an important component. My positions here are based on numerous conversations with CIOs over the past several months. Not all of them feel security concerns in the cloud have subsided, but the majority do, and they're the CIOs who've been doing the most experimenting in the cloud. Keep reading and holding me to task! Tony

  • Jeff Loupe February 20, 2011 6:31 pm

    Fears about cloud security are greatly exaggerated? Just because a lot of money is spent on security? I don't see how any of that makes any sense. Firstly, without physical security, there is no security. So how can I feel OK about my data out the the cloud (whatever that is)? You are implying that security is proportional to money spent on security. That's absolute nonsense.

  • atlanta web November 26, 2010 6:13 pm

    You say that traditional IT manages an " unwieldy set of complex applications " The IT folks know how to handle their mainframes, and to them, your cloud looks unwieldy, with it's sql-injection attacks, cookie based states and rigorous xml based soap and ajax gymnastics. That said, I do wonder how long I will get away with charging corporations with world wide data centers a nice fee for something as mundane as CMS hosting. T. Morton

  • Tony Kontzer October 25, 2010 7:50 pm

    Emvee: Thanks so much for your feedback--I always appreciate reminders that readers are paying attention. I do believe, however, that you've misinterpreted me. When I wrote "Whether they're right is not the issue," I wasn't implying that there will be no consequences if they prove to be wrong. Obviously, there would be serious consequences. I was simply saying that whether you agree with their approach or not, the young IT pros of today, who are often fearless (or brazen?) when it comes to adopting new, (sometimes) unproven technologies, are the IT leaders of tomorrow, and all indications are that you can expect them to charge ahead, consequences be damned. They simply come at IT from a different perspective. As they get older, they'll likely gravitate toward some of the same concerns the more seasoned IT folks today have, but by that time, cloud computing may be considered vastly superior in every way compared with today's IT. ~Tony

  • emvee October 25, 2010 5:44 pm

    re: point# 3 (younger technologists prefer cloud): Saying that "Whether they're right is not the issue" is fatuous nonsense. Of course it matters whether they are right. In IT it very much matters what is right. That doesn't mean that decision makers will make the right decisions to do the right things in the right way, as evidenced by the numerous software failures and data breaches, etc. But it still matters to determine and understand what is right. There are real consequences to decisions that go beyond fad and popularity. The relative merits of "cloud" deployment vary by situation and circumstance. And don't kid yourself: when you don't control the platform and data you are at risk; it may be an acceptable risk, or not, but that decision should be made on the basis of real data in context, not in order to jump on the latest bandwagon.

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