The cloud's three key issues come into focus

Once it got past the vendor hype, the Cloud Connect event revealed the three key issues that need to be addressed

I'm writing this blog on the way back from Cloud Connect held this week in Santa Clara. It was a good show, all in all, and there was a who's-who in the world of cloud computing. I've really never seen anything like the hype around cloud computing, possibly because you can pretty much "cloudwash" anything, from disk storage to social networking. Thus, traditional software vendors are scrambling to move to the cloud, at least from a messaging perspective, to remain relevant. If I was going to name a theme of the conference, it would be "Ready or not, we're in the cloud."

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But beyond the vendor hype, it was clear at the conference that several issues are emerging, even if the solutions remain unclear:

Common definitions: Everyone is defining the same cloud computing concepts, such as private, public, hybrid, community, virtualization, and multitenancy, a bit differently -- OK, very differently. Individual talks would provide a very different interpretation about what it means to be a private cloud than other talks did. The worst offenders were presenters selling traditional on-premise software and trying to push their square pegs of technology into the round holes of cloud computing, conveniently co-opting the "private cloud" label in their pitches.

Standards: Everyone strives for standards, but no one ever seems to get there. While the push for standards in the world of cloud computing is real, cloud computing standards, best said by NIST's Lee Badger at my panel yesterday, are largely just a series of white papers at this point. There's nothing real in terms of detailed guidance.

Nobody disagrees that we need standards, but I've yet to see detailed standards emerge that provides enough guidance for every provider to get on the same page. There's a good reason why real standards may not emerge: Over beers, many cloud computing providers admitted they consider standards as the first step to commoditization, something they would rather not see this early in the emerging market. In short, many of them talk standards, but sell proprietary.

Security: This issue is linked to standards as well. We know that clouds need to be secure, and that we're not there yet in terms of complete security. However, with the initial work by the Cloud Security Alliance, we're beginning to see some thought leadership. That said, we seem to be much better at running around being Chicken Little in terms of warning enterprises of the dangers around cloud computing, but not so skilled at providing security strategy and tactical guidance. Truth be told, with a bit of solid architectural forethought and some good technology, you can have cloud-deployed systems that are much more secure than on-premise systems. These issues ostensibly around security seem to be more about control.

Anyhow, the conference was good way to spend three days thinking about and talking about cloud computing.

This article, "The cloud's three key issues come into focus," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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