Lessons from Star Wars: Perils Await in the Clouds

Loraine Lawson

Yesterday, when I wrote about making money via cloud computing, I couldn't help but recall Lando Calrissian and Bespin's Cloud City from the Empire Strikes Back.


I'm sure you'll remember Cloud City. It seemed like a lovely place, but looks can be deceiving, as our heroes - Han, Luke, Leia and the rest - learned to their peril.


StarWars.com described it as a "floating metropolis of sophisticated beauty and political freedom," and a "sanctuary for those trying to escape the turmoil gripping the galaxy." I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. Cloud computing promises efficiencies, fewer problems, and reduced costs - a sanctuary from the seemingly over-rigorous, occasionally imperialist, internal IT.


But at what cost? What perils await in cloud?


I started thinking more about this question after reading SOA guru David Linthicum's Thursday post, "SOA mistakes are being repeated in the clouds."


He warns:

"...the guys who fell short in meeting your SOA expectations are not the guys to tap for cloud computing projects. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

Joe McKendrick picked up the topic from Linthicum, but he defends SOA's success and the so-called "SOA guys":

"Many may even have their 10,000 hours in for understanding what is needed to ensure value through SOA, and thus may have some important lessons and understanding to contribute to budding cloud projects. Such as - understanding the role of governance and architecture."


In a way, it doesn't matter who's right. Just as Boba Fett wasn't the only problem lurking in Cloud City, the failures of SOA aren't the only dark clouds ... ha... hanging over cloud computing.


As my IT Business Edge colleague Carl Weinschenk pointed out in November, security is high on the list of concerns for cloud advocates-and if the cloud advocates are worried about it, you sure as shooting should be. This isn't just an issue of transmitting data over the intertubes, as Weinschenk explains in his post. There are also security questions at the service level, the user authentication level and the transaction level. His post has more details, as well as links to where you can learn more.


You might also want to check out this interview between Weinschenk and Jon Brody, vice president of marketing, TriCipher. Brody addresses the security question, as well as the second hidden peril of cloud computing-questions about compliance issues.


While you hopefully do not have to deal with a compliance overlord of Darth Vader's ilk, compliance questions still can't be taken lightly. In a recent IT Business Edge post, Susan Hall notes that some believe cloud computing will create legal, regulatory and business risk, and possibly make compliance impossible. Others, of course, think this is a load of hooey and say auditing is auditing, whether it's in the clouds or your server room. Regardless, it's something you'll want to consider, particularly if you have piecemeal cloud adoption in departments.


Finally, no matter how much cloud computing may simplify your life, there will still be integration challenges, as I've discussed in previous posts. It's not necessarily more of a problem than it is with your internal systems-although, it's certainly more complicated to handle integration with two separate companies than internally-but you don't get an Integration Pass just because you move to the cloud.


So, yes, there are certainly problems with cloud computing-but there are always problems. The key is to know what you're getting into, so they don't catch you off-guard. Han Solo wouldn't have wound up as a Popsicle and Luke wouldn't have lost his arm to Darth Vader if either had done a bit of due diligence before landing in Cloud City.


Then again, we wouldn't have had such a wonderful movie if they had. Mistakes and conflict are great for entertainment and morality tales. But they're very bad for business.


As Arthur Cole, another IT Business Edge blogger, wrote last month in "<strong>Making the Cloud Work for You</strong>":

"Believe it or not, the cloud will make things simpler for IT. Most of the provisioning and monitoring that makes for a dull workday will be gone. But there will still be a need to keep tabs on what's happening out there-so the more thorough you are in laying the ground rules, the easier it will be to keep things under control."

Princess Leia couldn't have said it better herself.

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