April 28, 2011 12:17 pm

Founder’s Desk: April 28, 2011

Is the cloud ready for prime time? Not the current cloud services that are being offered by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and so on. The recent outage at Amazon will make enterprises even more cautious in moving mission-critical applications to the cloud. And we agree with both the Gartner and Forrester analysts, who argue that security is a bigger cloud-related concern than performance and uptime for large enterprise customers.

Is the enthusiasm around cloud computing justified? We think it is because of the significant flexibility, manageability, productivity, and cost advantages associated with cloud computing. But up until now, leading cloud service providers have paid very little attention to security in their cloud data centers. Anyone who had a conversation with Amazon’s EC2 folks would agree with that. In addition to the Amazon outage, Sony announced that it had to shut down its online gaming and entertainment network because the personal information of 77 million users were breached by a targeted attack. Online gaming is probably the most pervasive cloud application in the world, particularly in Asia where people spend very serious money trading virtual goods amongst each other. And there are lingering security issues with Google Apps’ deployment at L.A. Police Dept..

So – are we beginning to lose trust in the cloud, from enterprises to consumers to government agencies?

If leading cloud service providers such as Amazon, Google, etc. do not get serious about security and availability, we might actually see declining growth in cloud computing pretty soon. One investor said this week that Amazon is a retailer which happens to be a cloud service provider. This might be true as cloud services generate a mere one percent of Amazon’s total revenue. However, we are hopeful that the cloud industry will put in place much stronger security and performance technologies to regain public confidence, based on the fact that major players are buying into cloud computing through acquisitions. Verizon Business bought Terremark earlier this year and CenturyLink announced its intention to acquire Savvis this week. IBM is also marketing its Smart Cloud services to its enterprise customers.

Most notably and with little fanfare, Harris (a major defense company) announced its Trusted Enterprise Cloud in partnership with VCE (a EMC/VMware/Cisco consortium) last month. Harris’ Trusted Enterprise Cloud is a multi-tenant cloud infrastructure targeted at high-end organizations such as government agencies and large enterprises which need to meet stringent security and availability standards before moving mission-critical applications to the cloud. Its laser-beam focus on trust and security cannot come at a better time when customers are having more doubts about the reliability of the current cloud infrastructure.

With consumerization of IT, the impressive growth of smart mobile devices, and virtualization, cloud computing is likely to drive the bulk of technology spending in the next decade. But we should not make the same mistakes that Microsoft made at the dawn of the PC era 30 years ago. Let’s take care of trust and security before it is too late.