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Cloud Computing

What Are the Biggest Misconceptions Around Cloud Computing?

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With all the buzz around cloud computing, I think it's important to not only say what cloud computing is, but what cloud computing is not: so what are the biggest misconceptions around cloud computing?

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  • Many companies simply repackaged their on-premise software as Amazon Machine Image (AMI) and relabeled them as Cloud Computing. I call this approach "BOA" - "Bunch of AMIs" and it's definitely not Cloud or SaaS. AMI is a new DVD at best.

    -Roman Stanek

  • That cloud = virtualization + pay-as-you-go

    The most important attribute of cloud is being connected. Everything else is subsidiary to and flows from that single defining characteristic.

  • There are many misconceptions around Cloud Computing, but if I had to pick the biggest one today, it is the lack of awareness of vendor lock-in. For years, we've heard business complain about the cost of having their data locked in a proprietary format or not being accessible via a particular application. The Cloud introduces a whole new level of lock-in; indeed there's actual questions about who owns the physical data if you've simply paid for use of the service.

  • First, that cloud computing is just the latest version of shared services. Second, that it is just for start-ups, SMBs and geeks. Third, that it can't scale to meet the needs of large-scale enterprises. The reality is that cloud computing is harnessing a new generation of powerful enabling technologies to offer organizations of all sizes a more flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional, on-premise software and systems.

  • That cloud computing is an IT endeavour. It is first and foremost a business model for outsourcing the IT initiated by business people. It enables a company to outsource its IT technology... and people. And true, it is enabled by a collection of IT technologies.

  • The biggest misconception is to see the cloud as mostly hype or the latest marketing fad. There is certainly plenty of hype to go around, but the movement of enterprise software from a cottage industry of custom, on-premise solutions to network based computing centered on the Internet is unstoppable and will only accelerate as bandwidth, interoperability, and security mature.

  • The misconception that drives a lot of confusion is that cloud computing is like and electric utility. Data governance issues around security and privacy invalidate that analogy quickly. You can't just carry an adapter to transform data governance rules across locales. Add in the lack of standards and enterprise class SLAs and the electricity fizzles.

  • The biggest misconceptions are that 1) you should move all apps to the cloud; and 2) once you have an app in the cloud, your work is done. Moving some apps such as CRM and collaboration to the cloud delivers strong business value, while other apps involving sensitive and proprietary information should remain on premise until security, compliance, and governance issues in the cloud are resolved. Rapid integration of cloud-based and on-premise apps, enabling real-time sharing of business information, is vital to the effectiveness of cloud apps.

  • I think that the biggest misconception has to do with private cloud and what that is. A private cloud should be more than just some virtualization technology on top of your private servers - but I see a lot of people talking about it in those terms. In my blog post http://herbjorn.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/private-clouds-a-great-misconception/ I compare real private clouds to captive insurance.

  • The IT industry moves faster than any other, yet many IT professionals are not only conservative when it comes to the cloud but downright afraid, steering their companies away from it and, in many cases, from greater enterprise and profitability...some of reasons why people fear the cloud, and the facts that they overlook are:

    1. Cloud computing means loss of control. Businesses fear that clouds take away control over their own data and, without complete infrastructural control, reliability and access cannot be ensured.

    Technology has evolved to the point where control itself has been virtualized to a great degree. Cloud computing is not the answer to every business’s every need, but complete infrastructural control is not always a need for all businesses either. Sophisticated partners provide granular administrative controls, and clouds on the grid computing system have been proven to be 99.999 percent reliable. Assessing the cloud’s viability for specific purposes requires businesses to define how much and what kind of control they need, and to investigate vendors’ infrastructure and administrative offerings before making a decision.

    2. Being tied to one vendor. They fear that SaaS products have proprietary encryption formats that can lock-in customers and make it difficult to migrate data in the future.

    This is a valid concern, but it is not specific, let alone unique, to the cloud. On-premise vendors also have proprietary formats, not to mention prohibitive migration costs and the need for specialized technical expertise, which can prevent organizations from moving to a different solution. In fact, most quality SaaS vendors make it easy to not only to access but export data as is. Companies which use SaaS successfully address these concerns before choosing a vendor by doing thorough research into migration and support options. Your business is the customer for SaaS and it’s in their interest to provide every incentive for you to come on board, including easier migration.

    3. Security and data integrity can be compromised.
    Skeptics fear that in shared warehouses, data can be breached or cross-contaminated.
    This is an old canard with little to no basis in reality. Security is one of the areas in which well-run SaaS vendors with impeccable data centers can outperform all but the best traditional IT shops. Quality SaaS vendors offer top-level security, frequent and multiple back-ups and several contingency plans in case of faults. More generally, concerns over security can be put to rest by investigating the vendor’s security policies, systems and data-sharing protocol before choosing.

    The fact is that many of the risks cited by cloud skeptics are common to IT environments in general, and a competent IT professional should already have systems in place that minimize those risks. Other concerns are more challenging and SaaS-specific, but can be eliminated through vendor evaluation.

    Businesses today cannot afford to fall for these misconceptions; current market realities require that all options be considered without prejudice. IT professionals who categorically refuse to consider the cloud or evaluate vendors methodologically might be masking their own resistance to change, or even their vulnerability in critical areas, and harming their company’s bottom-line in the process.

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