The imperfect cloud versus the imperfect data center

The recent bricking of computers by McAfee should not be used to shine a bad light on cloud computing

While I enjoyed fellow InfoWorld blogger Paul Venezia's commentary "McAfee's blunder, cloud computing's fatal flaw," I once again found myself in the uncomfortable position of defending cloud computing. Paul is clearly reaching a bit by stating that McAfee's ability to brick many corporate PCs reflects poorly on the concept of cloud computing.

Paul is suspicious that the trust we're placing in centralized resources -- using McAfee as an example -- could someday backfire, as central failures within cloud computing providers become massive business failures and as we become more dependent on the cloud.

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However, I'm not sure those in the cloud computing space would consider poorly tested profile updates that come down from central servers over the Internet as something that should be used to knock cloud computing. Indeed, were this 15 years ago, the poorly tested profile updates would have come on a disk in the mail. No cloud, but your computer is toast nonetheless.

Paul is correct in one aspect: We are indeed trusting cloud computing providers with core business assets, processes, and data that they could screw up, and I suspect we'll see a few disasters before 2012. That said, there is no perfect technology out there, and you have to consider the trade-offs. Cloud computing is no exception.

Still, I suspect the number of cloud crashes that impact businesses, and thus make news in the trade press, will be much less of an issue than the number of internal system outages you never hear about -- but that you know occur weekly.

If you measure the number of dollars lost due to internal outages against the number of dollars lost due to cloud computing outages, adjusted for relative computing units, I suspect cloud computing will still look compelling. In other words, we need to compare an imperfect world with an imperfect world and select the path that provides use with the best value, including less risk.

This article, "The imperfect cloud versus the imperfect data center," originally appeared 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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