Get Off of My (Enterprise) Cloud

Cloud computing may save the universe, but it won’t be saving the enterprise’s universe any time soon. At least that’s what I’ve gathered over the months of reading and hearing about cloud computing ad nauseam. The enterprise needs security, reliability, manageability, etc. and these are not available in the cloud today. I’m a bit puzzled. When did the “cloud” inside the enterprise become so resilient, manageable, and secure?

I won’t argue that solutions like Amazon’s EC2, Google’s App Engine, Microsoft’s Azure, Salesforce.com’s Force.com, etc. are ready for the enterprise today. What I will argue against is this perception that services within an enterprise’s internal IT control are superior in almost every way to the cloud computing alternatives. For example, an eWeek article from July 2008 on hosted email and considerations that should be made in regards to reliability:

Solid advice. Do we do the same for email hosted internally? When gMail or other popular hosted email solutions go down it’s a crisis that gets publicized like no other. Next time email at work goes down, be sure to check TechCrunch, CNet, and other tech publications for further info. I understand the scale of email in the cloud has no comparison, even compared to the enterprise. The enterprise might be talking hundreds of thousands of users, while email by Google, Yahoo!, and others is measured by the millions of users, hundreds of millions even. But, if email goes down within a company it is no less problematic for those users.

I think expectations need to be re-examined in regards to cloud computing. I hate the hype around the cloud as much as anyone, but let’s not pretend all is good with services provided behind the corporate firewall. Compare realities, not false perceptions.

  • The “cloud” inside the enterprise has never been adequately resilient, manageable, and secure, but that’s not the point.

    “Secure” is a technical absolute, something you have or you don’t. Its about fear, something people wish for up to whatever maximum then can afford, in money, convenience, etc. Often far less than events prove they need, since people are more inclined to spend for functionality, not security.

    “The cloud” doesn’t deal very effectively with those fears, compared to say, an enterprise firewall, which can be described and understood by anyone in minutes.

    If something bad happens in “the cloud”, the consequences can’t be determined by just having “our guys” examine the logs. Its “their guys” you must rely on, and their priority for doing so is specified by whatever SLA agreements are in place, that most fear-holders little ability/willingness to read/understand.

  • Correction; should be ““Secure” is *NOT* a technical absolute”…

  • Joshua Hoover

    Brad,

    Good points. The fear factor of cloud computing is rather high in comparison to on-premise, behind the firewall solutions. There is a comfort in knowing and better understanding where my data resides when it is somewhere I can physically see it versus in some virtual “cloud”. Whether it is rational or not, the fear factor cannot be underestimated.