Through several posts on this blog, we discussed the many aspects of confusion around the term, “Cloud Computing.”¬† After attending this year’s Cloud Expo in New York City and seeing the same three-layer stack (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) slide in fifty half of the presentations, I have to conclude that confusion still exists in the minds of the IT community trying to come to terms with the ongoing commotion over “Cloud.”¬† In this writer’s humble opinion, there is very little new food for thought that’s emerged from the Cloud conversation over the past year.*¬† ¬†The proliferation of genuine commercially available cloud services, and the proliferation of conferences and articles on cloud computing seemingly have not improved the understanding of those who are confused about what is and what isn’t cloud computing.¬† ¬†In this article, we will touch upon those old misunderstandings and some of the new ones.
Myths and Misconceptions
1.¬† Cloud will save me money
Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t.¬† Those moving their IT services into the Cloud need to holistically evaluate the costs of service and operation based on their particular use of Cloud services in their overall data processing architecture.¬† Don’t forget to include telecommunications impact based on the new traffic flow resulting from the move to a Cloud.¬† I have to add too that I’m usually concerned when cost savings are quantified for an isolated data processing function.¬† A change in the way application processing is delivered, the change in data traffic flow, the change in system support, the change in auditing and reporting (I could go on), probably impact other data processing functions as well as human capital costs.¬† The Cloud offers cost savings opportunities to be sure, but one must be mindful of the broader cost implications to the IT organization.
2.¬† I need to choose between either a Public Cloud or Private Cloud
I’d doubt that’s the whole story for you, unless you’re focusing on a single application that’s very easily isolated from all others.¬† Most enterprises will likely evolve into a combination of public and private Cloud services.
3.¬† Cloud means the end of data centers
Wrong.¬† Where do you think the physical infrastructure for your Cloud services sit?¬† ‚ÄòIn a data center.¬† Where do you think your network traffic destined for the Cloud goes?¬† ‚ÄòInto a data center.¬† The Private Cloud part exists in your enterprise data center.¬† The Public Cloud part exists in someone else’ data center.¬† If anything, Cloud implies an increase of dependence upon the data center.¬† The adoption of Cloud services into the market implies increased demands on data center governance.¬† By the way, don’t forget the importance of the network in your cloud model.
4.¬† Cloud computing is a new technology
Hardly.¬† While off-platform, network-based services have been around for many many years, they certainly are more numerous today.¬† More accurately said, Cloud is a new name applied to a lot of different technologies, delivery of services, and buying/selling of IT services, rather than a new technology itself.
5. There is no such thing as Cloud computing
This is often tangled with #4 above…. And to be fair it’s a matter of semantics.¬† To me, “Cloud Computing” implies a particular computing paradigm.¬† I believe that the elasticity notion that’s present in true Cloud architectures justifies recognition as a computing paradigm.¬† It’s not the same as virtualization.
6.¬† All IT requirements can be served by the Cloud
Probably not, but if your business is small enough I can imagine that all the IT requirements beyond the laptop itself could be served by the Cloud.¬† An independent IT consultant is a simple example (I could probably live with Google Apps, Gmail, Mozy, Skype, Quickbooks as my full compliment of application services).¬† However, if you’re any decent sized enterprise, there will be applications and data that you will not be able to Cloud-justify,… either for functional or governance reasons.¬† As time goes on, there is an ever increasing breadth of application services available through Cloud delivery.
7.¬† The Cloud is secure
Well, it can be made to be secure.¬† Said another way, it’s no more or less secure than any other data processing topic.¬† Security, in any IT data processing context, is not an out-of-the-box thing.¬† It has to be analyzed, planned, customized, and managed.¬† The application of Cloud resources to your data processing architecture is no different.
One of my personal campaigns in this area has been to emphasize the importance of physical security as the density of information assets increases in the data center that supports the cloud infrastructure.¬† Moving to a cloud architecture can have a significant impact on the risk management profile of the enterprise.
8.¬† The Cloud is just the network
This is a gross oversimplification.¬† This misunderstanding arises from those that make the leap of viewing network diagrams, which often have cloud-shapes drawn on them, and concluding that the cloud in that drawing is the same service that is referenced when discussing some type of cloud computing.¬† Network architects use cloud images on network diagrams to abstract connectivity and routing when the details of those transmission paths and connections are not germane to the factors intended to be communicated by the diagram.¬† Cloud infrastructures, platforms, and applications are indeed accessed over the network, which diagrammatically often appears as a cloud.
For organizations struggling to come to terms with how to fit “Cloud Computing” into their strategic plans, my advice is to ignore the temptation to attach a hard definition to the word, “cloud.”¬† Instead, just agree that there are new options to how infrastructure, platforms, and software services are provisioned and procured (that are flexible, on-demand, scaleable (up and down), and elastic), and plan the enterprise architecture with those options in mind.¬† Trying to come to terms with a particular Cloud definition and back-fit it into your architecture plans is a more arduous approach.
We’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic.¬† In particular, how is your organization handling the semantics around “Cloud Computing” in planning your next generation enterprise architecture?
*Footnote-¬† While I am disappointed with the deficit of new thought around Cloud Computing, there clearly has been a lot of new businesses and services emerging to assist the enterprise in the creation and management of Cloud-based services.¬† This is important, especially recognizing the level of difficulty in rationalizing whether or how to use a cloud model, implementing, securing, and managing the new architecture will be even tougher.¬† The reader can visit Cloud Expo’s web site for a list of trade show participants for a sampling of these.¬† There are some notable new vendors in the space.
BTW, Switch and Data Facilities Management Company (a data center company supporting cloud infrastructures) had an orange cotton candy machine on the trade show floor.¬† One could enjoy a fluffy orange cloud of sugary goodness as you stroll the trade show floor.