Cloud computing - the perfect storm?

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This article appeared in the June, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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Cloud computing - the perfect storm?
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It's working with Microsoft and partners such as VMWare, EMC, Fortinet and Cisco to streamline its customers' workflow.

Telarus chief executive officer Jules Rumsey sits on the board of the Communications Alliance and says from that vantage point, the national broadband network is a great benefit for those shifting to the cloud.

"(Fibre to the premises) will lead to better bandwidth and for a business client (if) they want to do a lot of VoIP and (unified communications)."

Rumsey says the cloud "will create a new world order but it will take time to get used to it". He expects to see a hybrid model for the foreseeable future.

Transition to the cloud

Myriad Minds in Melbourne, which integrates Salesforce.com and Google applications, says it gets a lot of work from companies that are moving into the cloud but want to keep what they have back on earth - in their data centres and on their own premises.

Myriad Minds managing director Glenn Elliott says there's a split between cutting-edge work done by smaller customers and what happens at the big end of town.

He says customers tend to start with a set of customer and sales tools such as Salesforce.com but

smaller businesses see it as a way to compete with the big boys and are using cloud technologies to manage every aspect of their supply. Part of this fl exibility, he says, is because Salesforce.com "offers the best of both worlds" by integrating Java and custom applications.

Those conversations are aided because Salesforce.com "tends to have relationships at the higher end of town", he says.

Microsoft deserves credit for kicking off cloud computing through its late 1997 purchase of Bhatia's pioneering Hotmail. What Microsoft does now with its cloud services (its "Software Plus Services Strategy") is an extension of that pioneering work, says Gianpaolo Carraro, Microsoft's software as a service director.

"What we're realising is there's an evolution that requires software not to be run on servers or desktops but out there in economical clouds," Carraro says.

"We don't believe the cloud is a replacement of what people have or want - it's a nice complement." Its investment extends to building data centres around the world and spending billions of dollars on supporting the infrastructure because customers are "not moving wholesale to the cloud".

Such talk raises the ire of those such as Google product manager, Matthew Glotzbach. He calls such approaches a "fallacy". "(Private clouds) should be renamed 'data centre optimisation'," Glotzbach says.

Quoting Forrester research, he says that the cost each month of a user is US$8.47 ($11.16) for Google Apps compared to Microsoft online email service at US$20.32 and an onpremises email service of US$25.18.

Dark skies

But there is no way to fi nd and attach new services easily, says Andrzej Goscinski, professor of computing at Deakin University in Geelong, west of Melbourne.

"There is a need for discovery of published services," professor Goscinski says. "Our study shows this aspect has been neglected by the major vendors and their solutions are primitive."

Security is a concern of many, as is governance and handling private information.

Forrester advises organisations considering cloud services to write a checklist.

"Early adopters have run into road blocks, including not knowing where their data resides, what happens to the data when a decision is made to change services and how the service provider guards customer privacy," the analyst group says.

"When you outsource the requirements developed internally, the vendor has to be at least as secure as you are," says the author, Chenxi Wang.

And as Google's widely Twittered May 14 outage showed, even the best processes can fall foul of error.

Commenting on the outage that blacked-out a signifi cant portion of the internet, Arbor Network's chief scientist Craig Labovitz said if you're a normal organisation "you don't worry about making the nightly news.

But if you  happen to be Google and your content constitutes up to 5 percent of all internet traffi c, people notice."

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