To paraphrase the old Edwin Starr song: "The cloud, huh, what is it good for?"
While some may be tempted to reply "Absolutely Nothin,'" I tend to think the concept can bring a lot of value to IT, although probably not in any of the ways most backers envision right now.
A few weeks ago, I closed a blog about data warehouses with the thought that concerns over specific technologies probably won't trouble most data center managers much longer because <strong>the entire concept was heading for the clouds</strong>.
That prediction gained a little support this week with the addition of a cloud-based warehousing component to Rally Software's Agile ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) system. The company says that by offering an online warehouse, app developers get the benefit of near-real-time updates of project difficulties and team activities. It's a vast improvement over current snapshot approaches that deliver stock reports that may not reflect current realities -- and it can be had with no additional infrastructure or operational costs.
It's an intriguing concept, although it does beg the question of where the line is between a cloud service and plain old software-as-a-service. It also represents the kind of specialized warehousing application that will likely find a place in the cloud. As for general data warehousing, it seems there are more considerations at play than whether it is technically feasible.
Stephen Brobst, CTO of Teradata, recently pointed out to InformationWeek that there are numerous privacy and governance issues that accompany cloud-based warehousing, particularly for businesses dealing with personal data. At best, he says you can set something up on a private cloud, but at the moment the company has only gone so far as to add a virtual storage component to its Teradata 13 platform that allows data to be shared across a pool of disks.
Analyst Jim Koblieus also thinks warehousing in the clouds is an idea whose time has not yet come. He recently told ZDNet's Joe McKendrick not to expect anything significant until 2011 at the earliest. Right now, beyond a handful of hosted offerings, everything else is just talk.
So eventually, yeah, I think you'll start to see more and more warehousing technology find its way onto the cloud. In the meantime, your best bet is the trusty appliance. And fortunately, there's no shortage of them at the moment.