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The cloud is the answer to all our IT problems -- from poor performance to lack of scale to high energy costs. The cloud is a sucker's game that merely shifts responsibility for IT infrastructure to different hands, leads to performance issues of its own and leaves your data more open to theft.
If both of those statements happened to be true -- and we won't know for sure until it starts to amass significant workloads -- would that alter your plans to deploy cloud infrastructure in any way? Apparently not, if the latest research is to be believed.
One the one hand, we have reports from groups like Global Industry Analysts that predict the cloud services market is set to top $200 billion in the next five years. That would represent a blazingly fast growth curve, driven largely by enterprise needs to cut costs and expand capabilities in what is likely to be a mediocre economy at best.
Part of this phenomenon could be attributable to something akin to the new car factor. The TV commercial may look great and the features are top notch, but only when you sit down with financing do you realize the price isn't exactly what was advertised and the warranty doesn't quite cover everything. Still, it's hard not to get excited when presented with services like on-demand provisioning, unlimited scalability and global load balancing -- throw in the undercoating and free oil changes for life, and you have a deal.
For the ultra-large organization, cloud computing may emerge as the only alternative in a few short years. Take the Department of Defense, which is about as big as you can get IT-wise. It hopes to shift its entire e-mail system to a cloud infrastructure over the next few years to streamline its operational environment and provide soldiers with lifetime e-mail portability no matter where in the world they may be. That kind of functionality aboard an in-house network would be doable, but only with a significant capital outlay and layers of expensive maintenance and management.
So is the cloud a net gain or a net loss for the enterprise? The short answer is both. It will deliver an entirely new level of efficiency and functionality over current enterprise infrastructure, but it won't usher in a new IT nirvana.
Again, I go back to my new car analogy. I don't know about you, but it seems that no matter what I buy, I end up paying more than I want and getting less than I expect.