Monday, November 3, 2008

Cloud Computing Excuses

I have been conducting an informal poll on cloud computing around my office and with consultants from other information technology consulting firms. I start by asking about the recent cloud computing announcements from Microsoft and other market leaders.

Everyone I have spoken to tells me they are excited about cloud computing and want to learn more about it. Microsoft's investment in development of cloud computing infrastructure makes it more legitimate and puts it in reach of more developers. Even my government customers tell me cloud computing is interesting and the shape of things to come.

Then I ask "who do you know who is using cloud computing today?" and I get a blank stare. I hear about some major customers cited by the vendors but none of my contacts knows real, live customers personally who are betting on cloud computing.

Part of the problem is that we are still waiting for the technology and the business model to solidify. Microsoft allows developers to use an early version of their offering, and the product will ship in the second half of 2009. Pricing was just announced last week, and the service will be available direct from Microsoft and through independent software vendors.

But I also hear something that sounds a bit like "not in my neighborhood." For instance, large companies won't need to go to the cloud since they already have large investments in IT infrastructure. Government will keep data onsite to protect security and privacy. The people I talk to say small business is the perfect early adopter, especially small businesses that don't want to maintain an IT infrastructure of their own.

Email is the most obvious to move to a service provider, but there are objections there as well. Where does a great deal of confidential information reside? Email, naturally. Which server outage would cause the greatest disruption at your company? Email again. I only know two companies who outsourced email. One is happy and one swears never again.

I also heard objections about potential legal issues for commercial customers. What happens when a company is involved in a lawsuit? Who guarantees that proper record retention policies are followed? Would law firms themselves be good customers for hosted computing services?

As a headline in the Washington Post this morning said, the outlook for computing is cloudy. It will take time to find out whether that means cloud computing is for you and your organization.

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