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Cloud Computing: Like The iPod For Infrastructure

It's perhaps a foregone conclusion that the speakers at the Cloud Summit Executive conference, being held Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., would insist that cloud computing isn't just marketing hype.
It's perhaps a foregone conclusion that the speakers at the Cloud Summit Executive conference, being held Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., would insist that cloud computing isn't just marketing hype.But the belief that cloud computing represents the future of the IT industry was shared by attendees. Having hauled a chair over to a power outlet to run my laptop during the morning's sessions, I found myself sitting next to Craig Heimark, CEO of CohesiveFT, a server virtualization cloud service provider.

I asked Craig whether cloud computing was really anything more than the newest buzzword for the old ASP model. He acknowledged that the technology isn't necessarily new, but compared it with what Apple had done with the iPod.

The iPod, as many recall, wasn't the first MP3 player. What it did was made buying online music easy.

Cloud computing, said Heimark, is like the iPod in that it makes consuming computing services easy. It's just a form of virtualization, he added.

A critical difference, Heimark observed, is that cloud computing costs less than the traditional enterprise software model.

"This stuff is truly cheaper," he said.

That means jobs will be eliminated, he added. That explains some of the resistance to cloud computing in some organizations.

While there are real issues with cloud computing, particularly in the area of reliability and security, Heimark said he expected those problems would be dealt with within two years.

Echoing the belief among many in the security industry that security is a process rather than a product, Heimark observed, "Security is not binary."

That is to say, security is about risk management rather than complete safety.

I think he's right there. Banks suffer loses from fraud and theft constantly. It's a cost of doing business. There's no reason to expect that information in the cloud, or anywhere else in a connected environment, for that matter, can be made more secure than money in a bank. Indeed, today, data and money are almost interchangeable terms.

But if cloud computing truly is cheaper, it means more money in the bank for companies to worry about losing. And that's a better sort of worry than the alternative.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer