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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Enterprise Cloud Cross-Currents

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The new year has kicked off with some contrasting cross-currents for enterprise cloud aficianados and neophytes alike. On the positive side of the balance sheet, there's a new and surprising Gartner prediction that a fifth of enterprises will have migrated all their IT to the cloud by 2012. I say surprising, not because I disagree with it, but because it originates from Gartner, whose analysts usually remain more conservative. "No IT assets in two years? That prediction seems pretty extreme, even for the most enthusiastic cloud-embracing enterprises," says Joe McKendrick.

I myself have been making bullish predictions for cloud in a webcast discussion this week (recording here) with fellow Enterprise Irregular bloggers Vinnie Mirchandani and Dennis Howlett alongside Appirio's Narinder Singh, followed up by blog post musing on the credibility of private cloud.

On the negative side, there were two significant outages at cloud providers. Salesforce.com had a poor start to 2010 with a one-hour outage on the first full working day of the year. As SearchCloudComputing's report points out, "The service interruption ensures the company's uptime for 2010 will not rise above 99.9% availability." Meanwhile, on Jan 2, Ruby-on-Rails platform-as-a-service provider Heroku, which hosts its service on high-end machine instances at Amazon EC2, was down for close to an hour when a routing glitch switched that entire layer of EC2 machines off air.

"... on Friday, January 2, every m2.2xlarge instance in that availability zone suddenly vanished, despite all other types of EC2 instances running as normal. That's unheard of in traditional hosting. It would be like every server with a given amount of RAM suddenly shutting down, regardless of operating system, age, brand, hardware or location in the data center, with no effect on its neighbors."

The episode illustrates how much cloud providers still have to learn about all the unheard-of ways in which their innovative environments can go down.

Other reports have emerged this week that suggest that Amazon EC2 might be oversubscribed and suffering from internal network latency. Alan Williamson of aw2.0 Ltd says that Amazon, which used to demonstrate consistently responsive performance, seems to be showing signs of running out of steam:

"In the last month or two ... new instances coming up don't seem to be performing anywhere near what they should be. After some investigation, we discovered a new problem that has crept into Amazon's world: Internal Network Latency ... depending on which processor you get allocated can make a huge difference to the performance of your running instance. So not only should we check for the CPU we are running on, we now must also take note of the network performance before we can safely push an instance into production. This is not what cloud computing is all about."

Are these just growing pains or are they a more worrying sign that there's a ceiling on the scalability of utility computing? The fifth of enterprises who could be totally reliant on the cloud by 2012 will want a reassuring answer to that question.

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Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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