Ready or not, cloud is coming

Regardless of whether you are a cheerleader or a naysayer, the fact is the pieces for cloud computing are coalescing rapidly. This stuff isn't vaporware. Our tests of cloud services -- the third of which appears in this issue -- show a rich and growing list of capabilities.

We started the exploration of cloud services by testing servers, establishing 20 CPUs in each of three cloud providers to learn about everything from provisioning to performance, security and pricing (see here).

Next up was the first ever test of public cloud management wares, tools that let us build, deploy, monitor usage and shut down jobs.

FAQ: Cloud computing, demystified

In this issue we test cloud storage services (see here), offerings that can be used to support everything from the computing you're doing in the cloud to data warehousing, says lead tester Tom Henderson, managing director of ExtremeLabs.

While spending on public IT cloud services (excluding private cloud spending) is only about a 20th of what is spent on traditional IT products today, cloud spending is growing six times as fast, according to Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC.

With a growth rate of 27% per year, by 2014 spending on public cloud services will reach $55 billion and represent 12% of traditional product spending (see here).

2014 is the knee of the curve, Gens says, beyond which things will really take off.

Of course, many issues need to be resolved between now and then. Fujitsu CTO Joseph Reger got it right in a presentation at the Symantec Vision 2010 conference when he said, according to Techpulse360.com, "The IT industry and the cloud thing are in the dating stage … Dating is when you see only the bright side, the opportunities and you don't sit down and worry about what could be the issues."

Issues include, but are not limited to, concerns about security (although our tests reveal this may be less of a concern than you may think), cloud availability and costs (our tests showing the latter can be tricky).

Then there is the big question about industry maturation. There will be the typical boom and bust/consolidation cycle, and while cloud computing is ultimately supposed to make it easier to swap suppliers, we know it will be rough in the early goings.To move forward, Reger advocates focusing on a private-public approach that complements existing IT instead of subverting it, and we couldn't agree more. The trick will be measured advances that limit your exposure while giving you the opportunity to address specific needs and gain experience.

Oddly enough, some pioneers say one of the biggest challenges can be political: convincing internal line of business owners they no longer need those dedicated compute silos. Turns out that can be a hard sell.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Ready or not, cloud is coming" was originally published by Network World.

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