February 20, 2012
This week's Cloud Connect conference in Santa Clara, Calif., exhibited all the energy and diversity of topics you might expect from one of the IT industry's fastest-growing sectors. The fast-paced format of 10-15-minute keynote presentations kept interest levels high, while the crowded sessions suggest that a bigger venue may be in order next year.
There was interesting news, such as social gaming giant Zynga's announcement that it has reduced its reliance on Amazon's EC2 cloud services. Allan Leinwand, Zynga's CTO of infrastructure engineering, noted that during the past year his company has gone from hosting 80 percent of its users on Amazon's infrastructure to hosting 80 percent on its own internal zCloud network.
While some may see that as a setback to Amazon or the cloud hosting industry, I see it as a natural, healthy evolution of a company that – with more than 15 million daily users – is now big enough to save substantially by investing in its own datacenters. There will always be customers that grow too big for the public cloud, and that's a good thing. Meanwhile, analysts tell us that the "cloudification" of most businesses is still in its early stages, with plenty of growth still to come.
Advice for newcomers
There was also useful advice for cloud computing newcomers. Forrester Research analyst James Staten, for instance, offered provocative, yet sensible guidance for enterprise computing users. "Don't even think of moving your apps to the cloud," he advised, noting that most existing enterprise applications are stable, reliable and already paid for. Instead of reinventing all that, he said, it's often more cost-effective to put a web infrastructure "wrapper" around an existing app, then create cloud-based apps to add new functions.
Phillip Easter, American Airlines' director of mobile apps, recounted his company's decision to leverage its existing mainframe-based data with a new phone app on Microsoft's Azure cloud. The app pushes gate change and other real-time flight information from American's reservations system to customers' Windows phones. Besides improving customer service, it lessens the load on American's legacy systems.
Security, policy concerns
Cloud Security Alliance founding member Becky Swain suggested several security-related questions to ask your cloud provider. As someone in that business, I can attest that far too few clients consider security when choosing a cloud provider. If they did, they would surely make better decisions, and eventually there would be fewer cloud vendors who don't meet the basic security criteria.
Lastly, it was interesting to hear BitCurrent analyst Alistair Croll's concerns about the growing threats to data and device freedom. Until a recent public outcry suspended the initiatives, for instance, Congress seemed intent upon enacting the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which could have significant impacts on cloud hosting providers. Even without SOPA/PIPA, the FBI was recently able to shut down hundreds of U.S. servers leased by the MegaUpload file-sharing site.
While copyright protection is important, content providers should not be driving the entire technology policy agenda. If we're not careful, well-meaning legislation and regulation could not only hinder the free flow of information, but also stifle cloud innovation and the ability to scale our businesses.
About the Author
Denoid Tucker is Vice President of Technology for StrataScale, Inc., a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of public and private cloud servers, dedicated servers and hybrid hosting services.
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