Who knew that clouds needed networks?

It's hard to be a cloud sceptic as it all makes so much sense.For a small to medium-sized business, outsourcing (as we used to call it, back in the day) your IT can save you time and money.

It's hard to be a cloud sceptic as it all makes so much sense.

For a small to medium-sized business, outsourcing (as we used to call it, back in the day) your IT can save you time and money. You don't have to worry about your technology as the provider will handle it, for a price.

But hold on, you will still need PCs stuffed with physical stuff like memory, hard disks, DVD drives and other bits and bobs that can occasionally fail, along with operating systems and applications, which can and do fail on a regular basis.

Yet there's an answer for this. Outsource the desktop and all you need is a thin client, serviced by a virtual machine or a terminal service at the back end, depending on the application and user. Sorted.

What about the enterprise? Well, you can save on IT staff salaries by outsourcing bits of your infrastructure -- you may well already do so, with functions such as payroll and billing. You probably don't own your own network, unless you're a bank or BT. It may well be that some of the software you use is purchased as a service rather than a permanent licence. Even core business processes are being outsourced by some companies.

So what's the problem? Arguments rage over issues such as security, loss of control and compliance questions, such as where your data is located and how that affects your liability -- or even whether it's legal for your data to leave the country.

But the biggest issue that fewer seem to be asking, at least in public, is whether the network can shoulder the load you're planning to throw at it. For most businesses reliant on public networks, this is a question worth asking.

One company Ciena, has recently flagged it up. The company, which makes high-end network equipment, has just issued a statement by chief technologist John-Paul Hemingway where points out that the network will become even more strategic, and that: "Enterprises will only be willing to utilise the new network-centric services if they can be reassured that operators will be able to deliver on their quality and availability, even in the event of major outages to core parts of the network."

He then goes on to point out that the recession has seen big providers slash or delay network infrastructure spending and posit that this could be a big threat to the development of SaaS and other online services. Well, yes, he would say that: he wants enterprises and network providers to spend more money on their networks.

But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a point. In all the discussions about cloud computing, the state of the network and whether it can deliver on the promise seems rarely to be raised as an issue. It should be.

So I don't think I'm a cloud sceptic but, because of under-reported potential road-humps, I do remain agnostic...

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