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More on Cloud Computing from Dion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe recently provide a comprehensive overview of the status of cloud computing for the enterprise in his post, Enterprise cloud computing gathers steam. It is a good article for spinning your knowledge up on what this trend means today.

He starts with the comment, “The days when organizations carefully cultivated vast data centers consisting of an endless sea of hardware and software are not over, at least not yet. However, the groundwork for their eventual transformation and downsizing is rapidly being laid in the form of something increasingly known as “cloud computing … The promise of cloud computing has captured the industry’s imagination this year for two big reasons. The first is the growing realization that cloud computing can successfully be used to strategically cut costs and drive innovation. And the second is that current offerings are getting very close to being ready for prime-time use in enterprise environments.”

Dion writes how cloud computing can address the two main challenges facing IT today, cutting costs and supporting innovation, issue that are often at odds with each other.  He goes on to list a series of benefits around the cloud such as reduced capital expenses, scalability and performance, security, and service orientation.  Dion then predicts that ultimate future of cloud computing will be with an increasing emphasis on switchable, federated services and less on proprietary, centralized services.  At iTKO we have long been fans of the Federated approach to IT and SOA Governance.

I think that Dion is making some very valid points. However, the benefits of the Cloud are also balanced by the risks of ensuring quality in the lifecycle, and potential costs and dependency. For this discussion, we're more concerned with the applications and business workflows we are supporting, and not necessarily the value of shared computing resources, which are more self-evident.

Quality and Validation in the Lifecycle of the Cloud: The use of data from multiple sources through the cloud raises the issues of testing and validation in spades.  This goes beyond security and raw performance/uptime concerns. As with SOA, continuous testing and validation of all these combined data sources from the cloud migrates the risk of invalid data getting mashed up in your work flows and your business rules going off track. In addition, when you have a malleable set of data and services, it makes finding a "control group" for your own development far more difficult -- how can you test against a changing baseline of data? Virtualization of realistic cloud behaviors and data lets the team get through the lifecycle, to the point of implementation testing in isolation of all that chaos.

Incremental Cloud Costs? The benefit of incremental and subscription-based software in the form of SaaS is very appealing compared to the big bang implementation. However, once you actually achieve a business dependency on the Cloud, the odds can shift in the favor of the supplier. If every transaction or access point represents an incremental cost, what happens if those costs are exceeding estimates, or if your transaction costs for testing and developing against the cloud exceed the cost of ownership in today's model? Here again, we need to consider how to pay for the transactions that make money (through a paying customer), while reducing the costs of transactions that cost us money (during our own dev, test and monitoring lifecycles). Behavioral virtualization of Cloud services and data addresses this risk, and we'll address this in further detail in relation to Cloud Computing.

I would add these issues to Dion’s list and to the list of concerns that IT departments need to address as they consider a move to the cloud.

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