What will it take for cloud to fly?

When planes run through them? In New York, it seems, the clouds rain buckets the very day you book a cruise tour down the Hudson river.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

When planes run through them? In New York, it seems, the clouds rain buckets the very day you book a cruise tour down the Hudson river.

That's right, I'm in the Big Apple this week...the city that never sleeps...capital of the world...Gotham. Did you know the city was given its Big Apple moniker by jazz musicians who toured the country and used the slang "apple" to refer to the towns and cities they played in? A gig in New York meant playing the big time for these musicians--hence, the Big Apple.

It's Thursday night over here and tomorrow marks the first day of Spring. I'd lugged my winterwear along with me since the forecast put the temperature at sub-10 degrees, but the weather had been fine since I arrived here Sunday.

Nice sunny weather, I thought, to book a cruise that will take me down the famous Hudson river and round the Statue of Liberty. But, of course, the clouds opened up and wept the very day I was due to take the tour…just your luck, hon, some New Yorkers might say.

Still, it was a nice relaxing ride and as our boat passed the 20th bridge--there are over 2,000 bridges and tunnels in the New York City metro area--my eyes gazed into the sky, and I thought about what it would take for cloud to fly.

I'm referring, of course, to cloud computing.

The concept of utility computing, an important component of cloud, has always appealed to me. I hate paying for more than I need and like having the ability to use the services I want, when I want.

But, fulfilling those requirements alone isn't enough for most businesses, as well as governments. One of the strongest objections to cloud focuses on security and control. Data in a cloud infrastructure typically resides at the service provider's data center, outside the customer's premise, and alongside critical data from other companies.

Sometimes, the data can be stored at data centers located overseas and under foreign jurisdiction. This poses a problem for companies, particularly financial institutions, that may be keen to adopt cloud technologies but are bound by regulations prohibiting them from moving and hosting data outside the country and in the cloud.

There are ways to work around such concerns, one of which is to build private clouds. But, that effectively eliminates the benefit of being able to easily scale resources up and down--a key advantage cloud offers.

Aside from regulation and security concerns, there are also other issues related to network availability and latency. It would be terribly cumbersome to have to locate, get to a network point and wire up each time you need to access a service, or simply to get to a piece of data. Also, depending on where you're accessing the service, network latency could be a significant challenge.

But, for some companies, the cost and management benefits cloud computing can potentially provide are compelling, especially in these tough economic times.

So, what will it take for cloud to take off? First and foremost, governments will have to relook data policies and establish legislation that give provisions for cloud infrastructure, and at the same time, ensure the same level of security these regulations were intended to provide.

Otherwise, all the APIs and development efforts to ensure services in the cloud can interoperate will mean nought if businesses are barred from using them.

Until then, I'll take another walk down Times Square before my flight back home, and think about what it'll mean if those Broadway lights could be turned on and off via a cloud...forgetaboutit.

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