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As the economy shows signs of improvement, we are faced with slow-growth forecasts for the foreseeable future. This new reality is forcing IT managers to embrace the model of cloud computing services, which are increasingly being adopted by large mainstream enterprises. Some organizations which just last year were slow to accept the premise are now enthusiastic advocates, with businesses looking forward to a cost-saving and low-capital model. And with a new class of complex enterprise buyers entering the market, a higher standard of performance and reliability is being applied to the purveyors of cloud services. Unsurprisingly, the demands of top-tier enterprises are exposing the immaturity of cloud computing, and the way forward may seem more like a long haul than a quick sprint.

Like every major technology emerging before it, cloud computing progresses in fits and starts, with the inevitable realization that real progress may require significant effort and careful steps forward. The new austerity, however, calls for better ways of delivering IT services, and that requires a serious look at the increasingly strategic use of cloud services.

The architectures used by cloud computing platforms - rapid scalability, flexibility, resource pooling, and usage-based pricing - are very different from "classic" IT computing models These differences present the opportunity for significant gains in asset efficiency, capital utilization, and business responsiveness.

These gains come with a price, however, in more uncertainty and a loss of some control. The old rules of operations may not apply, and the new rules have not been universally adopted. The previously predictable and stable world of enterprise IT is now an open field of new and evolving service models. The rate of change is higher than has been experienced in many decades. Many IT veterans are skittish of newer technology, but feel they have no choice but to move forward, based on the economic incentives and competitive pressures. The prerogatives of the "new normal" require a rebalancing of risk and rewards for enterprise IT and services providers, with a relearning of operational tactics and business models.

As the most sophisticated enterprises begin using cloud technologies for important production functions, the technical limitations are more important to understand. The list of "enterprise class" features supplied by the major cloud service providers is growing, but certain expectations and requirements of the high end of the market may remain out of reach for some time period. Certain advanced features which are assumed to be part of the enterprise checklist may not be part of the current crop of cloud services. Capabilities cited as high on the enterprise "must haves" include:

  • Predicable service levels for system availability, reliability, or responsiveness
  • Understanding of overall system capacity limitations, physical or otherwise
  • Sophisticated systems monitoring, metering, and performance reporting , visible to enterprise IT
  • Operational visibility into backup, data archiving, and disaster recovery capabilities
  • Security systems which integrate with enterprise single-sign-on and identity management
  • Integrated problem, change, and configuration management systems for application support


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