With support for three of the major pillars of application development and deployment -- Oracle 11g, Microsoft SQL, and open source MySQL -- under its belt, Amazon.com appears to be anticipating a major move by the enterprise into the cloud.
Plus, Amazon.com provisions Microsoft Windows Server, Oracle Fusion middleware, three Oracle backup and data recovery tools, and the open source LAMP stack.
When announcing Microsoft's own cloud platform, Azure, this week at the Professional Developer Conference, Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie tipped his hat to CEO Jeff Bezos and crew at Amazon for leading the charge into the cloud. And both IBM and Oracle have announced their versions of a cloud computing center. Oracle will use Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) infrastructure, while IBM will deploy based on its own in-house development.
Why IT is wary of the cloud: Mission-critical fears
Yet CIOs and CTOs that InfoWorld has spoken to typically describe the cloud as not ready for enterprise-class applications. So why are Oracle and Microsoft putting enterprise platforms and apps on Amazon.com's cloud?
David Mitchell, senior vice president for IT research at Ovum, says enterprises are simply not ready to deploy mission-critical apps in the cloud. "Would you be comfortable having taxation records online in the cloud? I wouldn't," he says.
When it comes to security, "with the cloud model the bar goes up dramatically," says Vince Biddlecombe, CTO of Transplace, a logistics provider for the transportation industry. "Everybody's concerned that their data gets protected."
Transplace does use cloud-based applications from Salesforce.com as well as HR on-demand and hosted expense management, but that's because these apps aren't mission-critical operational systems and don't hold sensitive data, Biddlecombe says.
"It's all about protecting the data. We want to hold onto it. It's proprietary and we want to maintain control over it," says Glenn Trommer, director of e-commerce and implementation services for Office Depot. "I wouldn't feel comfortable with cloud computing on a large scale at this point in time."
Just what is cloud computing's role?
Cloud computing is usually sold as a way to dramatically reduce costs by outsourcing both the infrastructure and the management of that infrastructure. And it's true that the average IT department has a great deal of wasted equipment. For example, the load of doing the books in the fourth quarter requires a certain capacity that will largely sit idle the rest of the year.
But are the savings of shifting to cloud computing big enough for the enterprise to risk relying on an external provider, especially when deploying complex business processes that require data to go in and out of the cloud, back behind the firewall, and back again to the cloud?