Good News, Bad News: Will the Cloud Ever Catch a Break?

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Cloud Computing Performance Matters

Performance issues are already a major concern.

Sometimes, whether news is good or bad depends on who's telling it.

While that may hold true mostly for politics and the economy, in IT circles it is something of a rarity. New products and systems generally produce a net gain, either to efficiency or productivity or a combination of both. Except when it comes to the cloud.

Here we have such a fundamental shift in longstanding IT practices that it's nearly impossible to gauge what kind of impact it will have when all is said and done. For every voice that claims the cloud is the next big thing in the enterprise, you have another saying it's all just a mirage, and yet another arguing that it's a little of both depending on what your goals are, how it's implemented, what your existing infrastructure looks like and so on.

Take the pair of cloud research reports that came out over the past month. In one, we have Wavelength Market Analytics and Winn Technology Group touting projections that the cloud will represent some 30 percent of all IT activity by 2015, up from 10 percent today. That figure is buttressed with estimates that 58 percent of medium and large organizations are already using the cloud or are in the heavy planning stage.

Now let's take a look at another report, this one from CDW, which states that 28 percent of U.S. organizations are using the cloud (not a contradiction considering Wavelength/Winn included both current users and near-future users), but alas most are not planning to devote more than a third of the IT budget to the cloud by 2016. What's more, the vast majority of cloud users today are onboard with only a single application.

So which is it? Should we be pleased that the cloud will represent a third of IT activity within four or five years? Or depressed by it?

Perhaps part of the reason there's still so much confusion surrounding the cloud is, well, there's still so much confusion surrounding the cloud. As Cisco's James Urquhart points out, the fact that we have yet to settle on a reasonable definition for cloud computing is creating a number of false debates as to what works and what doesn't. Is the cloud a business model or an operations model? The success or failure of any number of public, private or hybrid cloud configurations depends on your answer.

If one conclusion can be drawn at this point it's that the cloud is likely to stick around for a while. As IBM found out in a recent survey of more than 3,000 CIOs around the world, cloud computing has jumped to the 60 percent level on deployment priority lists, up from 33 percent two years ago. That puts it at the same level as business process management and only slightly behind major efforts like business intelligence and virtualization. To me, that indicates that the details may change, but cloud computing as a technology movement is here to stay.

If anything, though, IT can be faulted for getting caught up in the excitement over new technologies from time to time. Fear of being left behind tends to produce group-think that propels certain technologies to the forefront even if the details haven't been fully worked out (SOA anyone?).

Perhaps it's time we started to shift our attention away from bright, shiny labels and focus more on solutions that actually save money, improve performance and reduce complexity in data environments. Anything that can meet those criteria deserves your attention, no matter what it's called.

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