Sex and the Cloud


Cloud computing is a lot like sex.

Now that I've grabbed your attention, let me explain. Like sex, everybody seems to be talking about it but few are actually doing it. And like sex, the media tends to tout all the wonders to be had without bothering to highlight the responsibilities involved or the trouble in store if you're not careful.

Because the fact is, things can go south on the cloud. While Informationweek's David Linthicum overstates it a bit when he says concerns like over-hype, security and costs are enough to kill the cloud outright, he does make a point that the cloud is uncharted territory for IT, so it's best to ensure that you keep at least one foot on solid ground as you venture out.

Fortunately, enterprises consist of more than just IT techs. While the geeks are awestruck by the incredible scalability and flexibility, the lawyers and accountants and business managers are all evaluating it from their own perspectives. That's why we're seeing more and more discussion regarding the cloud's audit and compliance capabilities as things more forward. The fact that nearly two-thirds of enterprises say they are just as comfortable or more with their cloud's compliance features as with their own internal systems makes me wonder how well-prepared most organizations are for a significant discovery order.

These and other issues are at the heart of the rollout of probably the biggest cloud user/provider to date: the federal government. The General Services Administration's Apps.gov site was launched to great fanfare late last year, but so far has registered only 170 actual transactions. The vast majority of traffic seems to be people looking for information rather than actually running apps. Still, expectations are that nearly half of government offices will be using the cloud within the next two years.

And that's why I still think the cloud at large has some strong legs under it. Sure, there are challenges to be faced, and in many respects the cloud will provide only marginal, or even negative, improvements over current data architectures. But according to the latest IDC estimates, the worldwide data load will hit 1.2 Zettabytes this year -- that's more than one trillion GB and represents a 50 percent increase over 2009. The cloud itself won't be able to provide more resources to handle that load, but it will allow the IT community to manage it more effectively by spreading it out over the broadest possible set of existing resources.

In that vein, then, the cloud is not just probable, it's inevitable. There simply is no other way to effectively handle all the data coming our way.