Forum: Concerns about the cloud abound

Adoption is a matter of when, not if, but issues remain

Look to 2010 for a real focus to be brought on cloud computing in New Zealand.

The first major move this year came when New Zealand Post chose to deliver its email via Google. Now the enterprise is about to come into play, with Telecom looking to focus on the cloud when it outsources its technology and Unisys announcing its cloud strategy last week.

The cloud is still in its infancy, but it seems that uptake is a matter of when not whether.

Most concerns have been expressed around encryption and privacy, but there are many other issues for organisations to consider before they embark upon a cloud strategy.

Not the least of these is a lack of legislation, with a legal definition of the duty of care to protect data residing on shared resources. For example, what happens to the data if a supplier fails? Then there is the further question of service level agreements and consequent liability.

At a technical level, how easy will it be to transfer data between different cloud systems. And what about vendor lock-in, which may make it difficult to port applications and data? Once the organisation is committed to one vendor’s cloud, how easy will it be for the vendor to raise its prices?

There is massive investment in client-server, which is not going to be easily abandoned. And those who have gone the open source route are surely going to stay local.

Security will be the major issue. There will be extreme reluctance to put mission-critical databases into the cloud.

It is most likely that organisations will adopt a hybrid approach, where they may put basic information and data into the cloud, but keep mission-critical information on in-house servers behind secure firewalls.

The concept of private clouds is also gaining traction overseas. This is where companies use their own infrastructure and provision virtualised services to end users via automated tools. Again, there are some concerns about vendor lock-in because of virtualisation and other tools that make cloud computing possible.

Gartner predicts that by 2012, half of all cloud dollars will be spent on private cloud services. It has estimated that the 2009 spend on both public and private cloud infrastructure services will total $US3.2 billion.

Another research company, Forrester, says businesses should recognise the different types of cloud computing before they embark on a cloud project. It says the number-one challenge in cloud computing is determining what it really is.

Forrester has defined three classes of cloud services: rented software, application services that allow developers to build platforms, and infrastructure services.

Some vendors use the term cloud computing indiscriminately, Forrester says, describing this as “cloud washing” pre-existing services.

Despite the inevitable market hype, there is little doubt that cloud computing will be largely the way of the future. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. There is much for IT professionals and their organisations to digest.

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