Is cloud computing hype, or something riskier?

Is cloud computing hype, or something riskier?

Summary: Beware not only the cloud hype, but also overreaching by cloud vendors that may cause crashes over the coming year.


Ask a group of eight IT industry analysts what 2010 will bring, and you will get 100 different answers.

In the latest BriefingsDirect podcast, ZDNet compatriot Dana Gardner attempted just that, and one topic seem to rise to top the list above all others: cloud computing.

Is it because cloud computing is lighter than air, or is it really a tectonic plate shift?  While four of us (including myself) put cloud on top of the list, two others poured cold water on the trend. (Two others did not mention cloud as a major 2010 trend.)

Jason Bloomberg, for one, says most larger enterprises are not ready for the cloud. "I just don't see cloud computing striking it big in 2010," he said. "When we talk to enterprise architects, we see a lot of curiosity and some dabbling. But, at the enterprise scale, we see too much resistance in terms of security and other issues to put a lot of investment into it." Smaller organizations, on the other hand, are more inclined to sign on to the cloud.

Tony Baer also pooh-poohed the rise of cloud in 2010, noting that cloud is "not going to be the 'new normal' [as I said it would be in my set of predictions]." Expect to see the same demons we wrestled with outsourcing over the years, Tony said. "We're going to see this year an uptake of all the management overhead of dealing with cloud and virtualization, the same way we saw with outsourcing years back, where we thought we'd just throw labor costs over the wall."

Brad Shimmin, who sees a banner year ahead for cloud, nevertheless echoed Jason's view that cloud will be more likely seen among smaller enterprises. With vendors offering hybrid, premise/cloud, and appliance/service offerings, "it's going to really let companies, particularly those in the small and medium business (SMB) space, work around IT constraints without sacrificing the control and ownership of key processes and data, which in my mind is the key, and has been one of the limiting factors of cloud this year."

Dave Linthicum, captain of the cloud, is bullish on the concept, but warns that 2010 may see its share of thunderheads. He foresees cloud crashes making headlines this year.

"We've got two things occurring right now," Dave said. "We've got a massive move into the cloud.... We have the cloud providers trying to scale up, and perhaps they’ve never scaled up to the levels that they are going to be expected to scale to in 2010. That's ripe for disaster. A lot of these cloud providers are going to over extend and over sell, and they're going to crash. Performance is going to go down when the Internet first took off. ...They're growing very quickly, they are not putting as much R&D into what these cloud systems should do, and ultimately that's going to result in some disasters."

(Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy.)

Topics: CXO, Browser, Cloud, Data Centers, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Outsourcing, Virtualization, IT Employment

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  • Well, probably best that a number still have cold feet, it will take a

    while to scale it up and make it more reliable
    and more secure.

    But, the cloud is like a freight train coming.
    The old farts will not be able to stop it.
  • Drag and drop: What was truly lost in web applications.

    I think it's gonna be a mixed bag at first, people are gonna keep trying it for the next few years.

    I don't know if it will win or not.

    Personally, I don't want it to win.

    But it's not really something I can control, and it appears a lot of people want it.

    I personally want to see a hybrid solution as the goal, not a pure cloud solution.

    Why I want to see a hybrid and not pure:

    -Many users want control over their documents. Where their documents are stored is one thing they'd like to control.

    -Many users are much more comfortable with documents on devices they own, and are not comfortable with documents stored on somebody else's servers.

    -A device that works when networks are down is far more reliable than a device that stops working when networks are down. Why [b]not[/b] have a device that works all of the time, regardless of connection status?

    Things I haven't seen:

    -A truly reliable network. Sorry, but outages are a fact of life. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and snow storms can all kill cell towers, power lines, phone lines, and pretty much anything that can carry an Internet signal or supply power.

    And having 1000 servers wont' fix it - especially if the issue is on the user's end and not the server's end.

    Many devices can function on battery for hours without electrical power. Whether or nor the device has offline functionality can mean the difference between the device being useful for a bit longer and being bricked even when its battery is still good.

    -I haven't seen web applications with as much functionality as desktop applications. At least in the consumer space I haven't. Maybe it's different in businesses.

    After all of these years of having Gmail, what do we have?

    Well, it's frankly still a pretty minimalist application, and lacks the advanced features that desktop applications have, especially when it comes to managing mailing lists and large volumes of email.

    Integration of other PIM functions like Calendar, TODO lists, and other stuff is pretty much non-existent. They exist as separate online applications, and it's not a seamless drag-and-drop experience like Outlook and some other desktop apps.

    Features were fast at first, but they seem to be slowing down lately. Even Google is starting to become slow at getting new features into their email client.

    -I'm still waiting for technologies to [b]GROW UP[/b] and fix long-standing problems that should've been solved years ago.
    --Email should be secure and spam-free by now.
    --CSS 3 and HTML 5 should be finished.
    --We should be looking for something more user friendly and less susceptible to phishing than a URL.
    --Web "applications" should start acting more like regular applications and integrate more seamlessly with the OS.
    --We should start looking into more universal storage and communication systems for web "applications" - how many times have you decided you wanted a new provider, but was stuck because you couldn't move your data?
    --We need to start investing more heavily into single sign-on or shared authentication technologies. It's still a pain having to deal with so many logins.

    -I'm seeing an [b]INCREDIBLE[/b] loss off truly useful, functional applications. Social networking is cool, and to some degree useful, but it's not a total replacement for regular applications. No, communication with the entire Earth is not 99% of my life, and no, I do not want it to be.

    I have an application on my Palm Pilot that keeps track of my mileage, repairs, and maintenance of my car. That is a useful application.

    I'd like to see more applications like that - applications that make my personal life easier, and aren't just yet another attempt to replace the IM client or email.

    Sorry to go on a bit of a rant - but I honestly, truly believe that the cloud is throwing away the baby with the bath water. Is it nice to have something new? Sure! It's very nice!

    But is it good to kill the benefits of previous technologies for the new stuff? I'd say no - especially when it's entirely possible to gain the benefits of the old stuff without sacrificing the benefits of the new stuff.

    I don't think the cloud and the desktop have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I'd love to see more work to bridge the gap and come up with something that is a bit of both.

    The word I want to see used more in 2010?


    Seamless integration of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google's TODO list, etc.

    Seamless integration between web applications, even those that aren't owned by Google.

    Seamless integration of web applications and the desktop.

    Seamless handling of network issues, including disconnects.

    Seamless drag and drop inside web applications.

    Seamless drag and drop between web applications and desktop applications.

    Seamless drag and drop between two web applications, even.

    Get the picture yet?

    The "cloud" shows promise. But its seams are showing, and they are getting in the way. I want a seamless experience.

    Is that too much to ask?
    • What's all this nonsense about Gmail?

      Forget Spymail, I mean Gmail. All Google apps are spyware. If you want to use the cloud you don't want to use somebody that is filtering and storing everything you do. Everybody does it to some extent, but Google is the worst. Just use Yahoo mail. It has been around much longer and has a more sophisticated interface.
  • RE: Is cloud computing hype, or something riskier?

    I think there are two things.
    1. It can help reduce costs. It is inevitable in todays business
    2. You should be ready for the tradeoffs to benifit from the point 1.
  • Cloud Computing is SaaS = Death of IT Dinosaurs

    You are in denial. At last, we have the chance to kill the corrupt practices of CIOs cosying up to dinosaur vendors and confusing the CEO and CFO with fear, uncertainty and doubt - as invented by IBM way back.

    The answer is: + Google + Amazon + the new wave of cloud players building simple cloud apps. Goodbye CIO and IT dinosaurs. It's going to be like before - who remembers the B.U.N.C.H. in mainframes?
  • cloud is security risk!

  • ASP, push technology now cloud computing

    Yes there is quite a lot of hype. Not saying it wont play a bigger role, but I highly doubt smart companies that need top security, performance and control will trust all their data and apps on the cloud.
  • RE: Is cloud computing hype, or something riskier?

    I do think cloud computing is going to play key role in year 2010 and 2011 but we should keep a watch on how technolgoy is evolve around security to take to next level. Still lot's of company are putting there decision on hold due to seccirty concerns.
  • Unisys Secure Cloud is the answer

    If you are looking for security in the clouds, you should really be looking into Unisys Secure Cloud.
  • cloud cannot fix a large company's real problems

    The article is quite relevant and gets to the point quickly. Large companies see cloud as a way to outsource IT. They are desperate to outsource IT because they see that as the quick fix to the brain drain that has resulted in all those years of undervaluing IT expertise in their employees. Cloud computing can't inherently solve that problem and on some level everyone knows it, thus the resistance to adoption. Small companies don't see cloud in that way so their's is an easier sell. See for more elaboration on that theme.
  • Everything can be Positive

    Properly done with redundant backups and firewalls in server farms, data storage and Internet distribution networks -- there is no physical downside that is not seen within a large corporation.


    However, cloud computing is so geared to uniformity that innovation becomes bureaucracy restricted to as few as one national approval path. Yet data exchange is greatly facilitated over extended periods of time.

    Plus legal privacy is doomed once legal obstacle are reduced to a single, opportunity rich defender.


    BUT remember privacy is the KEY to crime above all other things - particularly in preparation and conclusion. Eliminating legal privacy would drastically reduce the ability to commit and hide crimes against the larger community and institutions.

    If the US is going to remodel itself on the Oriental model for success...teamwork, selflessness, culture over corporation, corporation over self, sharing and an end to privacy -- yes this is the way to go.

    A future transformation to Public, socialist team, democracy versus the current private, individual capitalistic, democracy. Quite a change.
  • Cloud computing - what a con

    For those of you with jobs - remember the IT department? You know those unhelpful nerds who made your life hell?

    Well they've just been privatised, moved down the road and now support thousands of other small businesses and enterprises. This is what people call a cloud.

    Same people, even worse response time and none of the responsibility - what a great idea to make money.
  • Cloud computing is trash...

    If you like cloud computing you are one of those stupid people who probably liked being slaved to a mainframe. You probably liked being talked down to by a pencil necked geek in a white coat. You probably liked being told, "No, you can't do that."
  • Still lacking basic things to make clouds work.

    The big three for me are secure encrypted connections to clouds, encrypted storage of all of my data, and 4th amendment rights for my encrypted files and transmissions. Once I get those, I will take a good long hard look at the cloud.

    Data ownership ties into 4th amendment issues but is a little bigger. I don't want to give my intellectual property rights over to cloud vendors, I want to keep those rights for myself so I can continue to do business.

    Data Agility. If a cloud vendor goes out of business, my data should be easy to port over to a new vendor or stored and accessed on a local machine. Some standards would help here.

    Exit strategies. A lot of cloud evangelists have turned the bright lights into the eyes of business and personal consumers so we don't see the truth. Ignoring sound business practices is a good way of losing your own business. That means planning for vendors to shut down. That means a vendor who presents me with an exit strategy that allows me to keep doing my own business even if they go out of business, is good for my business. The reality is businesses sometimes fail, even big ones. The reality business units get sold and sometimes fail after the sale. The reality is business units get sold and changed to the point where some customers are no longer satisfied with the new model. A graceful exit strategy protects outside business and builds user confidence. Telling me that at one time businesses used their own power plants is stupid (typical analogy to outsourcing data). Today if a business has an mission critical task that requires electricity and they are on an outsourced electrical grid, they have back up generators in place if they are smart agile business people. Why can't we expect the same for the cloud?

    I like the idea of the cloud, I just don't think it is ready for prime time.
  • cloud computing is dangerous for the enterprise

    increased operating costs, affects cash flows and liabilities, can easily be in violation of laws (privacy etc) and contractual requirements, and leaves you vulnerable to increased outages outside of the control of both you and your cloud computing supplier.

    Internal cloud computing to act as a new type of thin client on your in-house servers, yes, this is highly viable.
    Deadly Ernest
  • Cloud Computing = Mainframe of today

    The reality is Cloud computing, web or private, is nothing more than a modern take on the mainframe. Just done on x86 servers.
  • RE: Is cloud computing hype, or something riskier?

    Cloud computing is nothing more than the timesharing systems of the 60's mainframe era -- this type with graphic terminals and a wider variety of applications. Where as dial-in or direct-connect minimized security problems in that virus-free era, the use of the Internet as a transport mechanism makes one vulnerable to cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-ground lightning. (Pun intended) -- It's not that revolutionary, not that secure and possibly not that popular in a professional or commercial environment.
  • RE: Is cloud computing hype, or something riskier?

    I've been using Google Docs for about 3 years now and havent a problem as of yet. Where I find the Notebook most useful is with my cell phone web browser since my cell phone doesn't have word processing capability. Of course, I'm an early adopter by nature.

    I was discussing it with my wife lately and she was very averse as I would imagine most businesses will be.
  • Cloud Computing = Crap!

    Could computing is:

    * Not yet mature
    * The latest IT buzz word - few people understand the true definition, and non-technical executives are drinking the cool aid
    * RISKY... I'll say that again R I S K Y! Do you want to bet the enterprise on an immature technology, using cloud services from a third-party who has probably out-sourced their support to a third-world country. Do you want to put your sensitive data and critical company information in the hands of another company?

    People, please, I beg you... stop the madness! Stop jumping on every IT bandwagon and buzz word you hear. Instead of asking "can we use cloud computing at our company?", ask "SHOULD we use cloud computing at our company?"
  • Everything old is cloud computing again...

    From being accused to an internet remodelling of mainframes, to client/servrer models reborn (which is what it most closely resembles) to whatever pipe dream consultants looking to make a killing try to sell it as it's still got a big problem.

    There's no there there. At least not yet. Certainly not in apps, as has been noted. You just know things are really bad when they're compared unfavourably to Outlook.

    The other major problem is the almost laughably slow North American high speed access system which limps along at less than half to less than a quarter of European, Japanese, Indian and other systems ramp up to.

    The Cloud, whose definition seems to change depending on who is trying to sell you what, isn't even Alpha yet much less Google famour Beta.

    Hype, much overblown, hype.