Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
4/16/2009
05:02 PM
Michael Hickins
Michael Hickins
Commentary
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Anti-Cloud Hype Is Hype

Cloud computing might not be all things to all people -- at least not yet -- according to a confidential PowerPoint presentation by McKinsey & Co. analyst Will Forrest. That's not news to anyone serious about managing enterprise IT, but it becomes O.J. Simpson Bronco chase-worthy in the hands of bloggers who give the profession a bad name.

Cloud computing might not be all things to all people -- at least not yet -- according to a confidential PowerPoint presentation by McKinsey & Co. analyst Will Forrest. That's not news to anyone serious about managing enterprise IT, but it becomes O.J. Simpson Bronco chase-worthy in the hands of bloggers who give the profession a bad name.What the presentation does say is that cloud computing provides significant benefits to small and medium sized businesses, but isn't mature enough -- yet -- to help large enterprises save money on infrastructure; it suggests that large companies focus on implementing other cost-saving technologies like virtualization while building towards an eventual cloud implementation; and it warns tech pros to not get so blown away by the current hype that they become disenchanted when it turns out that cloud computing doesn't bring the dead back to life.

Mind you, this isn't the transcript of a speech -- it's a PowerPoint presentation. But Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg, in a piece called "Deflating The Cloud," concludes all on his own, without talking to anyone at McKinsey, that the upshot of Forrest's report is to "[debunk] cloud computing's appeal for large businesses." He somehow even gets another consultant to shoot holes in the argument he puts in Forrest's mouth.

Not to be outdone by the competition, Eric Krangel at Silicon Alley Insider also gets his hands on the report and, under the headline, "McKinsey: 'Cloud Computing' Overhyped, Still Too Expensive," concludes: "McKinsey deflates some of the claims made about the cloud, saying the buzz is disconnected from reality and the promised cost savings just aren't there yet."

At least Krangel links to the actual presentation. Readers will no doubt notice that these points hardly represent a condemnation of cloud computing, even where large enterprises are concerned:

  • "Users, hardware vendors and service suppliers can take specific steps to ensure the successful adoption of cloud technology -- and prevent it from getting stuck in the 'trough of disillusionment.'"
  • Cloud computing needs to be defined, to help "the nascent cloud industry and its consumers [focus] on setting realistic expectations;"
  • IT departments shouldn't let the hype (there's that word) around clouds distract them from other strategies, such as "aggressive virtualization;"
  • Vendors need to differentiate between cloud services (i.e., Salesforce.com, Zoho), where customers don't need to bother with managing hardware and can add or subtract capacity as needed, and the cloud, which includes the latter characteristics but which also charges customers in relation to their capacity utilization levels (i.e., Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services);
  • large enterprises will have to reconfigure some applications, address security and availability concerns, and adapt their organization before they can begin to take advantage of cost-effective features of cloud computing;
  • In a nutshell, cloud computing is mired in something of a fog-bank of misconceptions and misnomers that could eventually hurt the industry and prevent some customers from taking advantage of its very real benefits. Oh, and it's not the only technology worth pursuing.

    The good thing about this breathless rush to produce a contrarian view of cloud computing is that it brings to light a report that might not have gotten as much attention as it deserves. The sad part is that it's presented in a way that does a disservice to the analyst, customers, and the reputation of the tech blogging community.

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