Wherever you turn, someone's ready to tell (or sell) you something related to cloud computing. Cutting through the myths is essential to deciding whether, when, and how the cloud is right for you. Here's our top list of myths; we welcome your suggestions and feedback in our cloud myths discussion area.
Myth No. 1: There's one single "cloud"
There are at least three forms of "cloud computing," each with different benefits and risks. They are 1) "infrastructure as a service" (bare-metal virtual servers available on demand from the likes of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud); 2) Web services providers, or "platform as a service," which are APIs or development platforms that let customers create and run apps in the cloud; and 3) software as a service, applications such as Salesforce.com's CRM software that users access over the Internet with little or no code running on their own machines.
[ What exactly is the cloud? Get past the hype and see what's real in InfoWorld's "What cloud computing really means" | Stay on top of the cloud from an IT pro's perspective in whurley's Cloud Computing blog. ]
The type of application you're running and the kinds of data you're generating also make a big difference in whether -- and how -- to move to the cloud. Which leads to:
Myth No. 2: All you need is your credit card
If you're a lone developer with time to burn, configuring a virtual bare-metal server from the command prompt may be no problem. But if you have a business to run, installing and configuring the OS, multiple applications, and database connections could get in the way of generating revenue. And if you're big enough to have any standards for security, data formats, or data quality, someone has to do that work, too.
Some vendors imply that a business user "can just go in and buy a development server in 15 minutes that's as good as the one it would take their IT department three or four days to provision," says Michael Kollar, chief architect at Siemens IT Solutions and Services North America, which virtualizes about 2,500 servers to provide cloud-based application services to internal users as well as external customers. However, he says, that cloud-based server may not be secure, meet corporate standards, or be integrated into the wider IT environment.
For example, even a Web server thrown up in the cloud for a short-term marketing campaign might need to meet corporate security and data format standards. That's because the customer data it gathers is subject to the same corporate and legal standards as "real" IT systems, says Kollar, and it must be usable by corporate analytic or customer tracking systems.
Many infrastructure-as-a-service players also can't meet the needs of enterprise applications. Phil Calvin, founder and CTO of Sitemasher, tried to find a cloud provider to manage the servers he now manages himself in a collocation facility. However, he says, "we couldn't find anyone to scale our standard servers" on demand. Nor could the cloud vendors provide the low-latency performance he requires or do global load balancing across datacenters.