Understanding there is a lot of hype around Cloud Computing technology being the latest savior (a new, website or repackaging of an old, viagra buy technology that comes up on the radar and it seems to become the rage) for IT and business, you hear a lot of hype and rhetoric from the technology pundits and evangelists touting all of the virtues of Cloud Computing. The problem is very few are discussing the real world problems or concerns with Cloud Technology. So I posed a question to a number of Technology Managers asking for their thoughts on what needs to be improved with Cloud Technology to make it viable, at least for their organization.
Essentially, what I got back can be distilled down to 5 main reasons or concerns people had about Cloud Computing.
- Security – According to those I talked with the number one concern appears to be Security. While it is felt this is not much of problem on private clouds, it is a major threat on public and consumer clouds. Businesses working with consumers on these public Clouds may need to be concerned about potential liabilities. According to one respondent, “When my data is in a cloud I don’t have control over its security, but I do have all the responsibility for its security. My CEO and CFO, for example, are the ones going to jail under SOX if someone messes with financial data.” Another Infrastructure Manager I talked with. “Security needs to be applied in a more granular fashion if cloud computing is to be broadly successful in the long-term.“
- Standards & Simplification – There needs to be more concrete effort to standardize the Cloud right from Architecture and even terminology. Unnecessary hype has been created, as is the norm for “Saviour Technologies” by major players and hence adopters can be a little bit shy of rolling out Cloud Technology. Most of those who contributed felt that can only happen if vendors can collaborate for common good, and most don’t see this happening.
- Locality – This is another hot button and is seen as a potential problem. One Professional Services Manager said that… “If my data finds its way to another legal jurisdiction because the cloud has a data farm elsewhere, then the laws covering that data are now potentially unknown to me. There are laws about aggregation of personal details across national boundaries and laws about encrypted data and the methods that are used. I am sure that these locality issues are ones that can be handled by contract but how many people are really reading their cloud computing contracts that closely?” You need to know if your data is going offshore, and know what that means to your organization.
- Network Access & Interoperability – A number of managers expressed concerns about handling network access for services through a cloud. For example, do the same remote access rules apply for users of cloud-based services: VPN, NAC, firewall settings, etc? Looking at this from a services perspective, how do cloud service providers handle these same network-layer security points? One IT executive pointed out that “Providers who are able to scale VPN, NAC, firewalls for each application provided through their own cloud will be able to expand their offerings to more core network-related fair. Those who are limited, either via hardware, management or single-tenant systems, won’t. And if they can’t, this creates a very serious security issue to plan for and I believe this will also limit what can be moved to a cloud model and what can’t.” Vendors still don’t, at least as some see it, understand that Cloud infrastructure will be heterogeneous and hence interoperability is key.
- Cost – One of the issues that kept coming up was cost. While most “C” levels see the Cloud as a potential reducer of IT spend, most of those I talked with are not so sure. While the short term reduction may be positive, and help the CFO get his bonus, the IT guys who will have to support this after the “C” guys have retired to the Bahamas think the costs are truly loaded on the back end. From Mike Drabicky, a Sr. Technology Consultant from Dallas, prospective, “You need to get a new car. Do you lease or buy? Leasing is attractive if you don’t use the car too much: no down payment, lower monthly costs. But you will end up paying more in the long run as you will never own your car. So while you can save money up front, it’ll cost you more over time.
Andrew Baker, a Sr. Infrastructure Manager from New York, says cloud technology can cause “…problems to the extent that one is reckless about how and what one puts into the cloud. Thinking that it is a panacea will likely result in it being used inappropriately — with correspondingly bad results.”
A valid point that made a number of us cringe, and prompted the question, can you ever truly leave the cloud once you arrive? You have to wonder about the next “C” level suit that comes in and decides that the IT team needs to implement the next round of savior technologies, which may not be supported or compatible with the Cloud. How do you ensure all of your data gets out of the cloud and what is the cost of that move?
All in all there seems to be a lot of unanswered questions about Cloud Technology, which is a shame considering that, in my mind, Cloud Technology has been around long enough to respond to these concerns. Yes, there are a number of groups working on some of these questions and some vendors are even stepping up to the plate. But, as with most new technologies, the true knowledge will come with experience.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
About the Author, Martin Swinney
Martin has more than 20 years progressive technology leadership experience across multiple industries such as law enforcement, military, telecommunications, market research, publishing, consulting, and healthcare. During his career, he has worked on numerous global projects, primarily in Asia and Europe, and led a number of diverse technology teams. During the course of his career and travels, Martin has come to see the South as an underutilized economic engine with a well-educated workforce and reasonable labor and resource costs that has a strong business friendly government.