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Cloud Connect: IT Managers Remain Wary

Salesforce.com, Google, and Amazon say their strategies and software help enterprises move virtualized and IT resources into a cloud computing model.
Crawford pointed out that Salesforce's cloud platform runs Salesforce's proprietary language, Apex. Coffee responded, "Our Apex code is a hybrid of Java and C Sharp. The bulk of the work you'll do [in moving] is writing scripts -- the work that we're already doing for you."

Another member of the user panel, Carolyn Lawson, CIO of the California Public Utilities Commission, said she was personally responsible for the correct handling of data collected by her agency. "How do I know, if I port my application and data to another cloud, that you no longer have it?"

Sheth emphasized that Amazon doesn't take ownership of data in its cloud. "It's your data. We don't ever look at it. Amazon has a long history of holding sensitive data on millions of people," he noted.

But Lawson wasn't satisfied. If a mishap occurred and data were stolen out of the cloud, it's not been established in case law who is responsible, the originator of the data or the owner of the cloud services, she noted.

Coffee countered that putting data in a cloud tends to mitigate the risk of losing it. Data stored on laptops or small departmental servers is more likely to be misused or go missing that data stored on a well-administered cloud server, he said.

Robert Woolley, chief technical architect for State of Utah Technology Services, asked whether logging of events executed by an application was kept by the cloud provider. Coffee responded that clouds provide extensive logging services, allowing events to be reconstructed from the log file to tell "who changed what and when."

But restrictions emerged through the assurances. The Google App Engine currently runs applications written in Python, a dynamic or scripting language often used in Web applications. But questioners asked how much of the IT infrastructure was composed of Python.

Selipsky said the Amazon cloud runs customer software stacks as a bundle formatted in Amazon Machine Image and insisted it was simple to produce such a package. "Just follow the instructions on the Web site," he said.

But Billy Marshall, CEO for rPath, a virtual appliance firm, says his firm is finding an increasing business as a third party in packaging up enterprise applications for export to the Amazon cloud.

Google's Sheth said it was fine to talk about moving the IT infrastructure to the cloud but what most people got started with was their e-mail servers and applications.

Crawford added his own observation: "Wow. This [cloud computing] sounds too good to be true. If this is true, why aren't people signing up? I wonder if [cloud providers] aren't talking about something that's too narrow and specialized."

The market is getting crowded with Web-based software and storage offerings. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of what you need to know about the cloud computing strategies of Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and five other leading vendors. Download the report here (registration required).