Friday, February 15, 2008

IT Opinion: Dark Cloud

Cloud Computing

A few postings ago I told you about IBM's new cloud computing center in China. Today's news brings us the other side of the picture, the 'too many eggs in one dropped basket' phenomenon. Amazon's Web Services had an outage this morning, which had a major ripple effect on many small businesses using it's computing cloud. You can read about the details here. Of course this is just a short-term outage in a new and experimental technology, but it does point out one key element of cloud computing: If you are going to host the vital interests of many business users you have have to maintain mainframe-quality uptime.

Resilient grid computing is the solution. The same type of multiply interconnected network of resources as the Internet itself. If one server drops you switch to another, if the whole area is out you move to a different part of the globe (which may slow things down, but not totally drop). The real key of it all is trust, the kind that happens between businesses, and that means the kind that is maintained between people. Companies have to be willing to join in a cloud that will benefit them when they are at peak need and offer them maximum value for their investment. But by the very nature of the cloud there is an element of joint risk. There has to be a minimal level of trust between participants so that everyone is confident that one of their partners is not going to allow resources to be squandered, or does not practice due diligence on security, for instance, leading to vulnerabilities. Cloud computing is the next big thing, but there are a great many particulars still to be worked out.

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