Moving to the Cloud: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Loraine Lawson

During a recent podcast, Jack Vaughan asked David Linthicum why, in his new book, he said that cloud computing could "devastate" enterprise IT in much the way the Web did.


It's a frightening word, "devastate," and it's tempting to dismiss as hyperbole .... except the results of a recent Forrester Research survey show there's already a shift in the direction of outsourcing applications and infrastructure.


Forrester queried 900 IT leaders and technology decision-makers in the United States, Canada, France, Germany and the UK. It found 30 percent will spend more on systems integrators and project work. The other areas of increased spending:

  • 26 percent will spend more in applications outsourcing.
  • 25 percent expect to increase spending on infrastructure outsourcing.


As this TMC.Net article points out, that's a shift from the recession of 2001-2002, when outsourcing IT as a whole was the name of the game. To me, that translates into more use of the cloud and hosted services.


A lot of people, myself included, have wondered why SaaS and cloud seem to be catching on more readily than ASPs at the start of the decade. Maybe we weren't ready then. SOA may have helped with this, in part.


As Linthicum points out in the podcast, cloud computing doesn't change the technology-it just changes the way we consume the technology:

Cloud provides us with another way to consume the same resources in a different kind of a model that enables us to scale up, it's fairly elastic, so in other words, we can scale up just by paying more money. The ability to support different levels of agility because we can provision cloud computing systems in a very short period of time, we can change providers, typically quickly and those capabilities fit right into the need that I think enterprises are looking at these days.


Linthicum's new book, "Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise," explores the connection between the two. It's <strong>an issue I've explored on this blog</strong>, as well as in interviews, including in an August interview with Atul Saini, CEO/Chairman/CTO of Fiorano Software.


However, while most of the news about moving to the cloud is positive, there are always caveats. Cloud can complicate load balancing and cloud offerings aren't always mature enough to deliver on their promises.


Recently, in fact, the Burton Group expressed doubts about the popular Amazon cloud computing services' ability to handle advanced security and availability.


Amazon's cloud computing service should not be used for applications that require advanced security and availability, the Burton Group analyst firm says in a report accusing Amazon of secrecy regarding its cloud data centers. The group also criticized Amazon's integration capabilities, according to this Network World article:

... Burton Group also says Amazon's management tools do not integrate adequately with the management tools used by enterprises today. EC2 is often a good fit when organizations need to defer large capital expenses, but Burton Group says the service is still not suitable for applications that store sensitive information, require identity management, high degrees of availability and high rates of I/O transactions.


How can you tell if the cloud's a good choice for you? Linthicum actually offers a set of guidelines on this question in the podcast-including, I was somewhat disappointed to learn, a precaution against using the cloud for legacy systems which, you may recall, has been mentioned as a business case for the cloud. But Linthicum says it's not usually cost-effective. Plus, as others have mentioned, there are integration problems. Bummer.


Linthicum also cautions against using the cloud to solve bad architecture or internal political problems:

Cloud computing is not going to fix your architecture. Everybody looks at new technology coming down the line as something that's going to fix a systemic problem, including dysfunctional political organizations and all these sort of things which basically and not allow you to get in there and make significant systemic changes in a positive direction. So if your architecture is bad, by adding cloud, it's just going to make it worse and more complex.


Again, bummer.


So, the moral of the story: Yes, cloud and SaaS can be great options, particularly if you need agility and cost savings. But don't delude yourself about the realities of cloud. The key is to make sure it's the right option for you.

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