BOSTON -- IT pros at the Enterprise 2.0 2010 conference came ready to hear concrete answers to cloud computing problems; many said they were tired of hearing about the big picture. While IT vendors were eager to cast cloud as the wave of the future, especially around office productivity applications and collaboration tools (the main focus of the show), users wanted answers to real-world problems.
Enterprise users did not want to go on record about details of their IT operations, but most were more than happy to share frank opinions. One workshop participant who works for a financial services firm said he had no trouble grasping any of the concepts around cloud computing; what he was really looking for was answers.
He said, for example, that his organization had sensitive data in many countries around the world; each country had its own set of laws regarding privacy and disclosure, and his lending institution had rules and procedures and IT infrastructure dedicated to meeting each set of guidelines. Hosting critical data in a cloud located in just one of those countries was an impossible conundrum; he couldn't afford to just "put it out there in the cloud."
"These are complex problems," he said. He also noted that his firm had just finished data center consolidation and was not terribly interested in hearing about making another major IT shift. If a service provider could provide him with a specific solution, he might be interested -- otherwise, cloud could wait for the next round.
"I'd love to deal with just one [cloud provider] that does identity management and nothing but identity," he said by way of example. His current biggest headache was managing credentials for all the different services available. A cloud provider that could solve that might have a shot.
Data centers over cloud
Others said the cloud was viable, but they had their own data centers and were not short of capacity.
"We'll look outside every time now; there was a time when we wouldn't have at all. But it has to add up," said one conference attendee. He said his opinions on cloud were positive, and the model made sense. "I'm a huge fan" of VMware, he said, noting that his organization had recently gone through consolidation in their data centers and his environments were almost completely virtualized.
Analysts say larger enterprises are always trying to work within their own data center first. Frost and Sullivan infrastructure analyst Vanessa Alvarez said their default position is always to look first to the resources they've already invested in rather than look outward, although Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are nibbling at the edges.
"Is it easy, manageable, not high security, security intensive? Those will be the guinea pig applications," she said.
Alvarez said that enterprises will always prioritize internal operations and security for a variety of reasons, and a larger shift to cloud computing infrastructures is several years away. Eventually, the market will adapt to enterprise demands and the cloud will be more freely used by the enterprise.
"It's going to be a hybrid world…it's about having the right mix of inside and outside," said Alvarez.
An IT architect at an American global enterprise based in the Midwest said his firm has made strides in the data center with power efficiency and service delivery, but it wasn't beyond the experimental stage with cloud technologies. He said the perspective was different for a really large organization. They do not look at Google Apps or Amazon as unique based on their scale, as his company has vast data center installations of its own.
"We look at Google and say, 'That's a nice data center, I have one too.'" he said.
He was more interested in looking for ideas his firm could use to improve their market advantage, as its two competitors had stumbled badly in the recession. He said private, microblogging tools like Yammer had a shot. Delivered as a service and fairly secure, Yammer was easy, simple and focused on a single task, he said. It is also free for basic accounts, which is attractive no matter the size of the enterprise.
Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.