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Its Cloudy Out There: Looking Out for Some Sunshine

  
  
  

by Aaron Dun

This past week in Boston, Ness Software Product Labs in partnership with SandHill.com held the fourth in a series of cloud-focused events which has included stops in Austin, London, and Santa Clara as well as a webinar held in September (you can find the webinar slides here).

Naturally, these sessions were fully buzzword compliant with all the requisite cloud images and kitschy phrases (see the title of this post!). Despite this ongoing fascination with cloud quips, however, we learned that real business is being done cloud-wise. And even though we still can't completely agree on what makes an internal cloud a cloud, or whether the Fortune 200 are actually on the cloud or not, interesting things are definitely going on.

We got to speak with well over 100 of you before, during, and after these events and thus learned a great deal about what people are doing, or are not doing, “in the cloud.” Here are some key takeaways from these conversations:

>You are really smart. In every city we were in we discovered new and cool things about how the cloud is being viewed and used. There were excellent discussions regarding the security of the most popular VM solutions, issues raised about data management in a virtualized environment, and a number of personal experiences with public and hybrid clouds shared.

>The cloud is happening at the grass roots level. Hardly a news flash here but the stories got richer as the year went along. We also all agreed that in a tightly controlled IT environment (think: Global 200), “the business” will not wait weeks for IT to provision a VM and instead will go out to Amazon and get one set up in hours (minutes?). This leads to a situation like the one I heard from the web applications lead at UC Berkeley:

I head up web applications at Berkeley, which means, as you can imagine, that I control probably only half of the web applications at Berkeley!”

>The role/definition of an internal/private cloud is still very much up for debate. On the one hand there is clearly momentum here, on the other it’s questionable what this exactly means. Most definitions of cloud architecture include something about “instant scalability,” meaning an application can scale dynamically--or within hours of the request--to new servers as needed. Most people took issue with the notion of applying this characteristic to an internal cloud. Which led many to deride internal clouds as merely “souped-up virtualization running in a server farm.” The debate rages on.

As our resident cloud strategy expert, Neil Fox points out:

While there seems to still be some confusion about Private Clouds fitting the definition of a true cloud, we would firmly assert that Private Clouds fit the majority of the NIST definition of a cloud. While most private clouds do not meter service, they do provide the elasticity and scalability of services needed to deliver the economic benefits to their (internal) customers.”

>SaaS/PaaS/IaaS definitions are much clearer today. It's acronym soup out there, but things are rounding into form particularly around Infrastructure-as-a-Service. SaaS is seemingly well understood, though people still take issue when a SaaS application is confused with a true cloud application. PaaS is still a moving target, but improving. And its moving mainstream. The recent attempt by Microsoft to suggest that their photosharing site is a cloud application in its TV ads seems like a stretch, but also indicates that tech companies think the cloud will resonate with consumers.

>Security may be a red herring. Or maybe not. Generally it appears that the first objection to cloud computing, and the rationale most often given for an internal cloud, is the security of the application and the data it contains. The tide seems to be turning against this issue. While it was a hot discussion topic in Santa Clara in June, by Boston it hardly came up. Personally, I think the security issues are real but definable. And as more people get comfortable with the risk definition, and how to mitigate those risks, it simply comes down to a company’s risk tolerance. From there, they will act accordingly.

In all, the discussions were enjoyable and informative. We enjoyed getting to know you better and to learn from you at the same time. To keep the dialogue going we have created a cloud-focused group on LinkedIn. Feel free to join and keep the discussion going.

Sunny days for the cloud are in fact ahead!

Aaron Dun is Senior VP of Marketing at Ness. You can follow him on Twitter at @ajdun.

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