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Five common cloud computing fears

This blog was written by Caroline Hunter, assistant editor of

Don’t let fears about cloud computing prevent you from investigating the technology’s potential to reduce costs and open up space at your company. Below we explore five common concerns enterprises express about adopting cloud computing.

1. Proprietary exploitation. As Richard Stallman has suggested, cloud computing might be largely a marketing ploy to get data center managers to spend money on unproven technology. At this point, there is some question about whether the cloud can provide concrete benefits for its price tag. Open standards for clouds provide justification for not rejecting the cloud just yet, because they enable you to elect how to use the cloud. In charging for a narrow definition of cloud services, proprietary cloud service vendors often eliminate that flexibility.

2.Lack of transparency. Just as clouds are hard to see, your critical system resources stored within a cloud are also difficult to locate. It’s better to have a clunky, secure set of resources than a cheaper, airy one that might float into someone else’s hands; and public/private access rights to clouds are far from being established. Also, in the cloud ensuring compliance with existing security standards is difficult. There are no established standards for providers to enforce, and an attacker can modify sensitive data within one.

3. Wrestling cloud standards. If you’ve figured out solutions to the first two hurdles the struggle is not over. Other companies and users may have different ideas about how you should administer the cloud and formalize those ideas into standards. Now you’re noncompliant. But noncompliant with what? CTO of Werner Vogels doesn’t like the term cloud because it can mean so many different things. So before you decide to be a cloud for Halloween, check out the  study by the browser company Opera. Much of the Web has escaped standards compliance as well. So perhaps the problem is how standards are created rather than how they are enforced.

4. Integration into existing environment. You dodged the marketing trap, secured your resources, and committed to a cloud configuration that works for you. But now you’ll have to figure out how to integrate the cloud into your existing environment and how to manage it. Like cloud computing itself, this is mostly uncharted territory. But there are tools available to help you out such as  Kaavo and OpenQRM, and RightScale.

5.Loss of service.This month, concern about service outages came true for a handful of Google users who lost access to their outsourced Gmail accounts for nearly 24 hours. Unfortunately, having your services run elsewhere can leave you helpless to get them back.

The choice to employ cloud computing brings a lot of uncertainty, and some reason to be wary about the safety of your business’s resources in the cloud. And because cloud computing is emerging and largely unproven, it’s still up to you to determine whether the sky is falling or it’s just a passing cloud.

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These are all valid objections that enterprises will have to confront in using public clouds. But much of the industry has a legitimate alternative: If companies already own data centers, they can architect them to operate like "internal" clouds. This approach (see: has all of the efficiencies and economics of using an outside cloud, but without the lock-in, standards issues, security issues of cloud computing. It's based on utility computing technologies, and is available now.