Last week I attended Cloud Connect 2010, which covered a great number of topics around cloud computing. I walked away with lots to think about surrounding four major concepts: private clouds, specialized clouds, (lack of) standards, and the unresolved legal implications of cloud computing.Private Clouds: It is clear now, that enterprises are all about deploying private clouds (or private data centers, as many refer to them) as a first step into the cloud. And understandably so. From an enterprise perspective, the comfort of having data behind the firewall, regardless of whether it's safe or not, is still reassuring.
Although we did hear some compelling case studies from Amazon Web Services, there is still much hesitation around placing important data and/or business-critical applications in the public cloud. Amazon has addressed this to some extent with its beta release of Virtual Private Cloud, which is, well, still in beta. Many other vendors are also exploring this area as well.
Specialized clouds: The term "specialized clouds" popped up in an IBM keynote, referring to different clouds tailored to the needs of different verticals. The point is that not all enterprises have the same needs and requirements, and therefore, we are seeing specialized clouds emerging.
My take: Since the terminology is not ambiguous enough in this space, let's add another one. I get that enterprises are not all the same; one of my pet peeves is that vendors tend to blanket technologies over enterprises, without really understanding the needs of each unique organization. However, mucking up the terminology landscape and further confusing the market is really unnecessary.
Standards: This was, perhaps the biggest point of contention at the conference. I realize we are a long way from establishing any kind of uniform standards. What could have been a productive discussion around what should be done turned into a brawl, with no productive outcome.
The bigger message was that there is still much work to do in this area. With a ton of standards bodies emerging today, and vendors coming to market with their own unique APIs, it's becoming difficult to have one voice.
If cloud is going to gain any kind of traction, let alone achieve the nirvana of the Inter-cloud, then we must have some level of standards in place to make it happen. As we've seen historically, not having standards in place has created challenges around interoperability, as well as vendor lock-in. The value proposition around cloud computing is negated if interoperability is not possible. It's as simple as that. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Legal Concerns: As the conference ended, I realized that there are still many challenges to overcome, but one in particular stood out: the legal aspect of cloud computing. The conference focused on ROI and technology, but didn't have a focus on what the legal implications are around cloud computing. There is still a big gap between the fast evolution of cloud computing and regulatory/legal issues, and this may be the one challenge that may be the most difficult to overcome.
It will require the vendor/analyst/consultant community to work closely together with government to redefine regulatory and governance laws currently in place. As cloud computing continues to evolve, this particular challenge will surface even more so, and will force the industry to address.
Vanessa Alvarez is an industry analyst for Information, Communications & Technologies at Frost & Sullivan.