There's no question that the cloud model is gaining steam, but large enterprises may not be ready to roll the dice. Big players such as IBM, Amazon.com and Google are offering services, startups are making use of cloud computing services to save money, and larger organizations such as the Department of Defense and Major League Baseball are drawn to the flexibility of scalable services.
future of computing may be a lot harder to predict than the weather. So, can
you bet your company on the cloud?
question is pressing on enterprise IT executives who are trying to weigh the
allure of low-cost, flexible computing in the cloud against the risks inherent
in the platform. The fear of outages is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to
the adoption of cloud computing, but IT and business managers also
worry-rightly-about data security, regulatory concerns and vendor viability,
among other things.
in the sometimes nebulous concept is rising faster than moist air in a
thunderhead. Venture capital companies are showering investment dollars on a
crop of tiny, oddly named startups. Established vendors are scrambling to
reposition their offerings as "cloud this" and "cloud that."
Dell has even sought-unsuccessfully so far-to trademark the expression "cloud
vary, but a few generally agreed-upon characteristics of cloud computing are
emerging: It is not a product but a service; it is available via the Web with
little or no human assistance; it is more or less instantly and infinitely
scalable to accommodate sudden bursts and drop-offs in demand; and customers
pay according to usage with little long-term commitment.
Web Services, or AWS, are generally agreed to be quintessential cloud services.
Amazon.com's EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) for application development and its S3
(Simple Storage Service) both serve up a Web interface, inviting the customer
to pay for what's used via credit card.
has augmented those services with SimpleDB, Simple Queue Service, Flexible
Payments Service and Mechanical Turk, a service, now in beta, that provides an
on-demand work force.
August 2008, Amazon.com enhanced EC2 with EBS (Elastic Block Storage), which
enables storage to persist after an EC2 instance is terminated.
is far from alone. Search engine giant Google offers Google App Engine, a
cloud-based platform for application development. In the United Kingdom, hosting provider
XCalibre Communications is serving up FlexiScale, which offers users a
self-service virtual dedicated server on the Web.
go online and sign up," said Philipp Huber, chief operating officer of
XCalibre. "Once you have an account, you can set up a
machine in a minute or two."
observers agree there are several basic types of cloud. Forrester Research has
segmented the cloud market into five categories: Web-based services and SAAS
(software as a service); developer application services; middleware
infrastructure as a service; virtual IT infrastructure as a service; and
physical infrastructure as a service.
not all clouds are created by commercial cloud computing service providers.
Most significantly for corporate IT professionals, corporate clouds-call them "intraclouds"-have
emerged, in which companies with significant IT resources make them available
in cloud form to their own employees.
in what may be a sign of the staying power of compute clouds, a cloud ecosystem
is developing in which utility vendors are creating tools for monitoring cloud
performance, and cloud aggregators are putting together packages of different
Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on Zcast.tv. He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.