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Don't Rush To Cloud Computing

What's more fun than being called out to a public debate? My colleague Bob Evans and I often see the challenges faced by IT organizations very differently. Bob's a visionary who has spent nearly three decades watching the evolution of IT and imagining how it could be done better, and I respect that. I spent the first 15 years of my professional career in IT, and tend to take a more conservative view on how IT should evolve, and he seems to respect that.  I wasn't surprised when Bob asked if he could quote my concerns about the cloud computing phenomenon in his recent column on the subject, where he made some astute counterpoints but also included this line: "The status quo that Art would have those executives cling to for at least a while longer is simply not up to the task." Now there's a public glove to the face if ever I've had one!

That's the sort of false choice a hyped concept conjures. You're either all in for cloud computing right now, or you're clinging to the last vestiges of a bygone era. Ya don't want to be the last one with a horse and buggy, do ya?

Here's the bottom line: Don't worry if "cloud" is low on your priority list. You're in good company. InformationWeek Analytics asked 370 of you to rank factors impacting data center operations for 2010. At the top of the list: constrained budgets, storage growth and server virtualization. Dead last: cloud computing.

In that same survey we asked about moving to public and private clouds. Only 9 percent responded that they were either using or considering public cloud services, while 19 percent were using or considering private clouds. Thirty-nine percent said that public clouds would never be used by their organization at all, and 24 percent said they wouldn't consider private clouds. I'd never say never, but I think this represents healthy skepticism and a pretty typical IT evolutionary process. Evolution takes time.

The first and biggest problem with cloud computing is that it's an ill-defined term. There are the "as a service" definitions, which include software, infrastructure and platform. Each of these has a very different business value proposition. Sweeping these concepts together as "cloud computing" leaves us with more questions than answers. Then there's the public, private and hybrid cloud definitions, each of which implies something different, too. Because of the variety of definitions, it's impossible to have a serious conversation about your monolithic cloud computing strategy. So let's avoid the term and look at some of the genres I've mentioned.

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