June 26, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
Over the past few weeks, I've dedicated significant time and energy to learning more about the latest trends in cloud computing. I've been listening to analyst podcasts, watching webcasts and reading hot new articles and white papers from the best and brightest. As expected, opinions vary. The funny thing is, experts who are looking at the very same cloud often come to surprisingly different conclusions.
Just when I'm almost won over to a supporting point of view for some near-term action, along comes a great war story of a scary storm in the clouds. Our current situation reminds me of that well-known adage: "Red sky in morning, sailors warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight." So you tell me: is it morning or evening for cloud computing?
On the positive side, the web is full of cloud opportunities. A google search will yield over 30 million page views, and most of them are positive examples. Virtually every technology company has cloud offerings with free white papers on the topic. Government Technology Magazine has many stories on the cloud, and they recently offered an excellent video interview on this topic with Vivek Kundra, who starts by saying, "Everything is going to be in the cloud."
So what am I reading on the hesitant side? Start with this article in Business Week entitled: Busting Cloud Computing Myths. Pay attention to "Myth No. 7: A cloud provider can guarantee security - Even if a cloud provider has every security certification in the book, that's no guarantee your specific servers, apps, and networks are secure."
The next article takes the storm clouds a bit further with: Is cloud computing inherently evil? Here's an interesting quote from an interview with Brad Templeton:
"The 4th amendment protects your personal data when it's in your house, and other places where you have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" to use the legal term. Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that you put information in the hands of 3rd parties, even if only for a very specific purpose, you can lose that expectation. So the DOJ regularly acts to seize data in 3rd party hands without warrants -- for example from webmail providers -- and this will surely expand to all sorts of cloud data."
I could go much further, but I suspect you get the point. You can find plenty of pro and con articles for cloud computing - and both sides have excellent stories to prove they're right. I often ask myself if anyone can be truly neutral in this (or numerous other) technology topics. We all have our biases before the first vendor powerpoint slide comes up.
On a recent call, one of my customers said, "All I want is cheap and secure."
The analyst responded, "You can't have both. You can have one or the other."
I doubt if there is a single right or wrong answer to this cloud question. The debate reminds me of non-stop (fun) arguments as a child. Growing up in Baltimore, I would spar with my dad, brothers and friends about who would finish first in Major League Baseball's American League East. (This was back in the 70s when the Orioles typically finished at or near the top every year.) As avid fans, each of us could argue for or against Boston, New York or Baltimore, but only time would ultimately answer that year's question.
I'm not suggesting the cloud debate is fruitless. In fact, I think each of us needs to built a government strategy that includes a plan for cloud computing. But there are always going to be technology leaders, followers and laggards. Every situation has different politics, funding, people, culture, levels of technical sophistication and other variables.
My main point is that I am suspicious of those who eagerly push for or against cloud computing as "red hot." No doubt, the weather is hot and the cloud is red. But is it morning or evening for cloud computing?
What are your thoughts?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.