Attack of the killer clouds and the coming IT storm

Debbie Downers are out in full force, predicting IT's end at the hands of cloud computing, but facts point to the contrary

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SLAs are for suckers, and failure will find you

Cloud providers push SLAs as their primary benefit -- your needs will be met because it's virtualized for redundancy and copied to a public cloud for instant growth. That's brochureware. You can't guarantee availability based on that. That's no haven from our storms. Failure domains still exist in that model, though moved around a little.

The cloud has actually made it more complex in that it ties workloads (applications and processes) directly to infrastructure and automates them. Along with an SLA, whether internal or commercial, that's supposed to somehow guarantee those resources will always be available. Virtualization and cross-boundary clouds certainly sound like an easier proposition, but not really. Failures will happen. It's the nature of our rabid beast. But now everything is floating on a software cloud that knows no boundaries and can change in an instant -- by itself. Figuring out what's wrong in that scenario isn't a job for high school interns.

You can look at the recent failures of both AWS and Windows Azure; they're public clouds, but at the data center level, they face the same problems as an enterprise, albeit on a much bigger scale and with more attention to multitenancy and recovering from security hacks by digi-pirates, tax-fueled government agencies, and bored middle schoolers. They're supposedly using this new technology with the utmost expertise, yet they've dropped service for everything from DNS failures to API errors.

I don't know about AWS, but if you're an Azure customer, you can supposedly read exactly what happened for every failure and how Microsoft solved it as part of your SLA agreement. Do that sometime and let me know how many $15-per-hour IT dilettantes could have handled those fixes.

Also, those clouds don't die on only a global level -- they die on an individual customer level, too, for reasons that can stem either from the provider or your own network. The remedy requires cooperation between two IT organizations, neither of which is happy to take the blame. That's fun and easy, right?

The cloud is hungry for more IT

I can go on and on about the need for skilled IT pros in a cloud-enabled world for integrating multiple platforms and networks (say, Dell deciding to make OpenStack a third viable option with Red Hat, no skills needed), the birthing of the mysteriously defined devops role, and of course, security. That's without getting into cloud-enabled SaaS management, especially database services and ultrasmart cloud-style BI.

Here's a heads-up: As part of app management, cloud vendors are selling your CIO on the wonderful possibility of multiple app "owners" and promoting the fantasy of exec-level folks pressing a magic button to create what they need, when they need it, and wherever they need it. Meanwhile, a smaller IT staff composed of minimum-wage wingnuts who went to high school at Fry's will spend its days coloring automation policies in a kindergarten-level iconized interface, sipping coffee, and watching the sorcery happen. Who really believes that?

If you're a hermit crab and figured you could base your entire career on an MCSA and Server Manager, you're in trouble. You might want to revisit your barista training, but not because the data center is going to become so simplified that no one needs you anymore. They're going to drop you because they need people with more and deeper skill sets.

Better yet, you'll need experience, lots and lots of it. Get involved in the hard projects, learn what you need to get things done, and up those communication skills. You'll not only keep your gig; you'll move it forward. It sounds hard, but if you've been in the biz for more than three years, change and upkeep shouldn't be new to you. If it is and you weren't expecting it, buckle up and get ready for a bumpy reality.

This article, "Attack of the killer clouds and the coming IT storm," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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