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The case against cloud computing, part one

By Bernard Golden
January 22, 2009 12:00 PM ET

CIO - I've had a series of interesting conversations with people involved in cloud computing who, paradoxically, maintain that cloud computing is-at least today-inappropriate for enterprises.

I say paradoxically because each of them works for or represents a large technology company's cloud computing efforts, and one would think their role would motivate them to strongly advocate cloud adoption. So why the tepid enthusiasm? For a couple of them, cloud computing functionality is really not ready for prime time use by enterprises. For others, cloud computing is too ambiguous a term for enterprises to really understand what it means. For yet others, cloud computing doesn't-and may never-offer the necessary functional factors that enterprise IT requires. While I think the observations they've made are trenchant, I'm not sure I'm convinced by them as immutable problems that cannot be addressed.

I thought it would be worthwhile to summarize the discussions and identify and discuss each putative shortcoming. I've distilled their reservations and present them here. I've also added my commentary on each issue, noting a different interpretation of the issue that perhaps sheds a little less dramatic light upon it and identifies ways to mitigate the issue.

There are five key impediments to enterprise adoption of cloud computing, according to my conversations. I will discuss each in a separate posting for reasons of length. The five key impediments are:

Current enterprise apps can't be migrated conveniently

Risk: Legal, regulatory, and business

Difficulty of managing cloud applications

Lack of SLA

Lack of cost advantage for cloud computing

Current enterprise apps can't be migrated conveniently. Each of the major cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, salesforce force, Google App Engine, and Microsoft Azure) imposes an architecture dissimilar to the common architectures of enterprise apps.

Amazon Web Services offers the most flexibility in this regard because it provisions an "empty" image that you can put anything into, but nevertheless, applications cannot be easily moved due to its idiosyncratic storage framework, meaning they can't be easily migrated.

Salesforce.com is a development platform tied to a proprietary architecture deeply integrated with salesforce.com and unlike anything in a regular enterprise application. Google App is a python-based set of application services-fine if your application is written in python and tuned to the Google application services, but enterprise applications, even those written in python, are not already architected for this framework. Azure is a .NET-based architecture that offers services based on the existing Microsoft development framework, but it doesn't offer regular SQL RDBMS storage, thereby requiring a different application architecture, thus making it difficult to migrate existing enterprise applications to the environment.

According to one person I spoke with, migrating applications out of internal data centers and into the cloud is the key interest driver for clouds among enterprises; once they find out how difficult it is to move an application to an external cloud, their enthusiasm dwindles.

This story is reprinted from CIO.com, an online resource for information executives. Story Copyright CXO Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.
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