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Cloud computing is the buzzword of the moment .  It seems that applying the "cloud" label is a real desire for a lot of people out there in the marketplace.  This of course leads to the arguments about whether the "cloud" label is appropriate or just marketing spin.

Why on earth is Cloud Computing so appealing?

I think there are a lot of factors.  I'll outline a few of the main ones below …

  • Trendy

    To a certain extent delivering a cloud solution suggests that organisations are on the cutting edge of technology - and this hints that there is something worthwhile in the technology being delivered.  Also the important important human-factor of the innate desire to follow fashion and trends.
  • Cost effective

    One of the big claims of Cloud Computing is that it delivers the lowest cost of hardware possible.  Not only are the servers uniform, they are designed in a way to scale broadly so that even large applications can be hosted without requiring special hardware.  This is one of the reasons why Cloud Computing is sometimes called "Utility computing".  That is, hardware that functions like a utility... it's just there. 
  • High availability

    Overall most cloud computing environments are designed to provide high availability - if one physical machine goes down, there is always another one to seamlessly pop in and pick up the load.  As software-based services are being delivered via the cloud, this is a critical component to be concerned with.  If you want to have 50,000,000 users, they have an expectation that their service will be there when they want it.  Cloud computing generally helps manage this risk.
  • Operational Simplicity

    It's a great relief to have someone else manage the infrastructure.  Putting the hardware together is one thing, being stuck operating it forever is quite another.  People who operate cloud computing farms generally have gotten the process down to a very efficient science.  Of course this also helps out the cost profile, but it also means that the management is efficient.  It is a big deal.
  • Financial Scalability

    Cloud computing is often a "pay as you go" kind of deal.  This minimizes the up-front costs and allows a small ISV to get into the game with a quality infrastructure that otherwise they might not be able to afford.  When you pay by the CPU minute, then you can really trim down your costs to just what you are actually consuming.  When it comes to matching costs to revenues (which you do hope to have), getting the costs down to actual with no extra is a nice deal.

Cons

It’s pretty clear that Cloud Computing as a concept has many problems to iron out before it can be considered a viable option by the Enterprise; the two mains ones are confidence and standards maturity.

The confidence problem centres around security concerns and belief. Questions such as, Who else can read my data when it is submitted to the Cloud? Are the claims of the benefits of Cloud computing really all to good to be true, what’s the catch?

It is also clear that the main players in Cloud Computing cannot agree on whether there should be standards right now or not. My feeling is that standards are usually better after a good dose of pragmatism and experience so as so many Cloud offers are still in beta this wouldn’t a prudent time.

There is also calls that having Standard’s bodies are little more than exclusive clubs designed to lock competitors out by using the ‘moral high-ground’ of standards as nothing more than a competitive edge, so the questions is whether Standards Bodies are really about benefitting the customer and the industry.

To add to the doubts how many Cloud services have published Service Level Agreements? I getting the feeling that this is still work in progress for many.

In Summary

Bottom line, using cloud computing is a sign of an advanced or very current application.  It suggests scalability and availability.  It is a cost efficient way to go for most ISVs.  But it comes with a cost.  You often need to look under the surface to discover if it really is of real benefit to you.

The potential is huge especially if not your organisation isn’t an Enterprise, this technology allows even a humble start-up to compete at the same scale as an established Enterprise.

With Cloud Computing many organisation such as Microsoft, HP and Amazon have committed significant sums on money and will be keen to have returns on their investments hence why the ‘hype-machine’ is going fall-tilt at the moment. The danger of this is that it will attract the same individuals that also hyped SOA that were quick to leave as potential wasn’t immediately realised damaging a perfectly viable architectural approach.

Interesting times for Cloud Computing, I will watch how things develop with interest.

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Posted on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:36 PM SOA , Technical Architecture , Enterprise Architecture | Back to top


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