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Cloud computing evangelists focus on why moving enterprise apps the cloud is so great–flexibility, cost savings, greater productivity, and so on. Such was the happy talk this afternoon at the Web 2.0 Summit as Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff, VMWare CEO Paul Maritz, and Amazon Web Services leader Andy Jassy took the stage.But earlier today, I heard a slightly different take from Rackspace CTO John Engates, who explained why companies are not moving to the cloud.
- Security–customers want physical control of their data and still don’t trust it off site.
- Unapproachable–moving applications to the cloud seems complicated and abstract.
- Proprietary–it’s too hard to move data among systems.
- Rearchitecting current applications is time-consuming and complicated.
- All or nothing–you’re either cloud or on-premise, but not both.
- Do-it-yourself–support isn’t a big priority for some cloud computing vendors.
As you’d expect in such a speech, Engates pointed out all the ways that Rackspace is proving these perceptions to be false, particularly focusing on the company’s customer support, which includes an 800 number that’s always answered by a full-time employee–no outsourcing, no voicemail. He also pointed to Openstack, a recently launched project in which Rackspace donated a lot of its cloud-computing code to create open-source equivalents to the compute and storage services from Amazon and Microsoft.
But there’s a seventh reason why companies are avoiding the cloud: confusion.
In his speech, Engates left a lot of unanswered questions. How does cloud computing differ from concepts terms that have been around for years, like hosting and outsourcing? How much does it inherit from the consumer Internet? Does it include applications like e-mail, or only lower-level application functionality like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure? Is demand-based pricing a necessity?
Every vendor has its own slightly different answers to these questions. (As Mark Benioff pointed out on stage a few minutes ago, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison pointed to a million-dollar piece of hardware on stage and said “this is my cloud.”)
Every pitch about cloud computing should start with a simple one-sentence definition of “how our company defines the cloud.” Otherwise, cloud computing can too easily be dismissed as a mere marketing term for the same old products and technologies in a new wrapper.
For his part, Engates defined cloud computing as being similar to hosting, but with much greater flexibility thanks to the use of virtualization to create and break down applications quickly. VMWare, Microsoft, and Amazon would probably all agree with that definition. Then they can get to work solving the other problems.