Gossip: Thoughts about Cloud Computing

November 27th, 2008

In previous gossip, we talked about why there is ESB and cloud computing (yep, the almighty cost down).  However, as my friend Tony said long long ago, “ideology is ideal, reality is cruel”.  Once upon a time CORBA talked like the savory for everything but it failed to save itself, and it is just one of the many failures we’ve seen.  So, what are the risks of the new catchy cloud computing?

First of all, the base assumption of cloud computing is that every terminal is connected to the cloud, which implies there are still network infrastructures, firewalls, multi-homing, and stuffs that IT is doing today to keep everybody connected.  In general, it’s not an easy task to calculate the percentage of overall IT cost contributed by network stuff.  Moreover, there will be security issues when something is connected.  Most enterprise security softwares are still based on traditional Windows AD, which means in near future the enterprise still needs to maintain or outsource whatever required by security measures.  As a result, the long term cost savings from adopting cloud computing is not that great as advertised.  What an enterprise saved may ultimately be just some racks of servers, and it still needs to stick with the big IT department.  In this case the best that cloud computing could offer is to host out-facing web sites, since data centers typically have better bandwidth.

Another risk is the risk of development.  Cloud computing is a super new concept so that its development model and companion tool chain are still in the pioneering stage.  From risk management point of view, adopting clound computing in new projects is certainly riskier than matured multi-tier or client-server development, therefore higher cost.  If the cost is high enough to cancel the savings of maintanence cost throughout the life cycle of this project, there is no significant benefit to the enterprise except experience building.

There are some minor technical risks.  For example, bigger data centers invite hackers that are either super rookies or super hot-shots (and no one want to mess up with these guys).  Confidentiality of data is another issue.  Even Obama’s telecommunication records are spied by curious eyes, what makes you think that no one will be reading the classified data of your company?  However, these risks can be identified in the very beginning of the project cycle, and thus considered manageable (at least you have something to put into SLA).

IMO, the critical factor for cloud computing to dominate is how to lower the cost of network infrastructures, otherwise there’s still not enough momentum for enterprises to move their existing systems to the cloud.  If SI or IT outsourcing companies could successfully integrate with cloud and telecommunication vendors, there might be a chance for the cloud to take off provided that cost control is well done within these companies.

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