The Future is Cloudy & Bright- Part II

What's old is new again; the power of the network

Fundamentally, the power of the cloud is proportional to the power the network that it runs on.  Just as in previous generations of networks from the Pony Express, to the PSTN, to ATM, to Ethernet LAN's the delivery and usability of the content depends on the quality and reliability of the underlying network layer.  For cloud computing, and its 24x7 availability requirement for access to mission critical corporate data and applications from anywhere at any time, the power and robustness of the network is tantamount to the success of the business. The best cloud applications must be designed with latency, fault tolerance, and throughput considerations in mind. 

Public cloud providers will need to provide rigorous service level guarantees and have the right recovery strategies in place to earn the trust of corporate IT leaders. To keep the cloud humming along, successful providers will need to invest significantly in the areas of virtualization, network transport, back office systems, and customer support in order to ensure that the network delivers the rock-solid performance that cloud computing will require to become mainstream.  As in earlier waves of technology migration, the importance of establishing trust between the customer and the cloud provider will be critical.

Is cloud computing right for my business?

In most cases yes…but in some cases no.  While moving sophisticated corporate applications or production SQL databases to the cloud offers tremendous performance and cost advantages, some businesses won't be able to take advantage due to business policy, regulatory compliance, or security reasons. 

Some customers consider their data to be too proprietary to allow into the cloud and prefer to keep it locked down on-premise.  Regulatory requirements such as those presented by PCI, HIPPA, SOX, etc. drive some IT managers to stay with a traditional Data Center or even virtualized private Data Center solutions to alleviate concerns over the risk of potential data breaches. Outside of North America, some countries prohibit sensitive data from crossing their borders. 

For potential cloud users, it ultimately comes down to evaluating the situational factors of costs, risk, and performance in order to choose the right environment for their particular applications or data.

Key industry challenges to widespread cloud adoption

Perhaps the largest industry challenge to ubiquitous cloud services is that of security.  Security threats are multi-dimensional and include protecting customer data from leakage, theft, malware attacks, and other exploits.  Some IT managers doubt that the Internet is secure enough to be a network layer for cloud data transport. 

However, security concerns are common with any new technology and as IT managers come to realize implementing cloud computing security is really very similar to other forms of corporate risk management and IT best practices adoption will quickly grow.  The industry is also taking pro-active steps to address security issues through such organizations as the IEEE Standards Association and the recently formed Cloud Security Alliance that has a broad membership of cloud providers, equipment vendors, industry practitioners, and users.  These groups are driving key research initiatives into cloud security issues and helping define baseline requirements for security management and compliancy.