>Issues with the Cloud

February 8, 2010

>Bart Perkins, Roulston Research’s Technology Chair sees problems that may arise as companies consider migrating their IT activity to the Cloud. He identifies:

Internet access. Cloud applications require reliable high-speed Internet access. Although Internet service is increasingly reliable, all carriers experience periodic problems. And when an outage occurs, you’ll have to be patient. Your outage is unlikely to be fixed before the problem is solved for everyone.

Support. Cloud customers do not control update schedules or problem-resolution priorities. MySAP, Salesforce.com, Flickr and other cloud providers update software based on unknown internal criteria, with little customer input.

Legal issues. Government regulations determine how people with fiduciary responsibilities can communicate with their clients. If you’re a fiduciary trustee, you should think about federal records retention regulations. Virtually all Web 2.0 services lack sufficient user-level backup capabilities. What’s more, the physical location of cloud data is unknown. European Union privacy laws prohibit certain data from crossing borders. And conducting a SAS 70 audit is extremely difficult in the cloud.

Data retrieval. Cloud providers make it easy to upload data. Unfortunately, each provider uses proprietary data definitions and data structures. In addition, they offer no simple tools for downloading bulk data. So, what goes up may not come down. Most customers are forced to use an Internet connection, often at unacceptably slow data-transfer rates. At 100Mbit/sec., it takes one to two days to export 5TB. Worse, it can be extremely expensive; Amazon charges 10 cents per gigabyte, or $100,000 per petabyte, to download data from its S3 storage service.

SLAs . Cloud providers have different service-level targets. For example, Amazon, Rackspace and 3Tera define an outage differently. Furthermore, each provider uses a different process to document outages and process any resulting user credits.

Governance. The cloud makes it easy for rogue departments to implement new services without IT’s knowledge. If the offending departments are not IT-savvy, new systems may be implemented with insufficient documentation, ineffective security or nonexistent workload management.

Financial complexity. Established companies have enormous investments in infrastructure. To be financially viable, providers must create financial models that offset total migration costs. Do a comprehensive financial analysis before committing.

He summarizes by saying:

Cloud computing is essentially just another type of outsourcing, with similar risks and benefits. Are companies ready to trust the cloud with their most precious resource, their revenue-generating systems? An organization shouldn’t leave itself exposed to thunder clouds; lightning may strike at any moment.

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