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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Can Too Much Hype Detour the Year of the Cloud?

One of the interesting things about working in the communications arena is observing time and again how rapidly fundamental ideas with great potential move from inspiring to confusing as they climb the hype cycle. Often, the result of accelerated hype is that customers tend to wait and do nothing.  While there are legitimate technical hurdles -- particularly in security -- that need to be crossed before enterprises migrate to the Cloud, I wonder how much the real benefits of Cloud Computing have been obfuscated by the seemingly endless discussion of a technology at the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle.  

When you strip away communication excesses, we believe there are four major advantages Cloud Computing offers the enterprise customer:
  • Greater economies of scale from maximum server utilization
  • Greater control derived when users regulate how much additional service they need and can provision on demand 
  • Greater operational efficiency from simplified management systems, and
  • Favorable total cost of ownership.
For those enterprises that do not invest heavily in information capital as a core competency, we might also add greater IT expertise to the list of benefits.

The Cloud discussion is also confused by various approaches to Cloud Computing.  So, let's try to simplify that:
  • An Internal Cloud resides in the enterprise's data center, where the enterprise owns the IT assets.  
  • External Clouds require customers to pay fees, as the infrastructure is located at the premises of an external service provider.
  • Organizations who want their own dedicated Cloud environment, use a Private Cloud model. 
  • The more commonly understood Public Cloud is shared anonymously by many companies.
For large enterprises, four key issues restrict their willingness to fully embrace the external Cloud. We simply refer to this quartet of concerns as “SECREG” -- security, compliance, reliability and governance.

Security issues remain unresolved -- at least to the satisfaction of many large enterprises.  For many, compliance and governance -- particularly in Europe -- are also major issues.  These issues make Private Clouds the most likely first choice of many enterprises.

But some feel Private Clouds will migrate quickly toward a Hybrid Cloud model.  Hybrid Cloud models enable enterprises to protect core data in secure internal systems, while taking advantage of some of the benefits of an external Cloud. This might be driven by the need to offload non-core information during peak activity periods or the need to access some specialty cloud-based service, like threat-intelligence networks compiled by security companies.

Hybrid hype is coming soon and offers a reasonable value proposition that enables enterprises to justify a secure migration rather than a wholesale change. Hopefully, the added hype won’t add to customer confusion. The clarity of communication might help determine whether 2010 becomes, as some predict, the Year of the Cloud.

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