As someone who writes about technology rather than actually deploying it, I admit I sometimes succumb to vendor-fueled hype. The good news is, it rarely takes long for someone to set me straight. Before I interviewed vendors, analysts and other experts for a story on cloud computing in 2009, I had the idea that virtually any enterprise application could run in the cloud, though some certainly might be better candidates than others.
Not so, I found out. Some highly customized apps simply can't run in the cloud. Steve Howard, Hosting.com's director of operations and infrastructure, told me a Hosting.com customer wanted to move a proprietary sales delivery application into the cloud but couldn't because it involved implementing a custom piece of hardware on a server's back end. "You can't have a unique piece of hardware pushed into a public cloud," he said.
All of the layers of the cloud "stack," the application layer, middleware and infrastructure, are "commoditized in some way," said Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of Mosso, the cloud computing division of Rackspace. He told me:
With something like an Oracle database, where you need a specific rack cluster, specific storage, specific configuration for a database server and specific network gear, that's not going to work. You can't specify all of that when you deploy in the cloud.
I remembered those conversations when I read that not even Amazon runs its entire Web operation in the cloud. According to PC World.com, Werner Vogels, Amazon's CTO of Web Services, said that while much of the company's website runs on Web Services, "there are also pieces that are not suitable to move, mainly because of the way we built the architecture really specific for some hardware, or we have a very dedicated, highly tuned environment where just moving them over to Amazon Web Services would give no direct benefit."
While the first part of Vogels' statement reiterates what I learned from Howard and Bryce, I especially like what he said about not switching already efficient areas of the business to the cloud. Moving apps to the cloud just because you can doesn't make a whole lot of sense, economic or otherwise.
I don't think that kind of recklessness is much of a problem with the cloud, however-at least not yet. I suspect most companies will continue to be cautious about movng any functions to the cloud, even highly commoditized services like e-mail that appear to be good candidates for cloud migration. .