What was 2009 "the year of?" One safe guess is cloud computing, and it’s equally safe to bet that next year will be the year of cloud computing as well. Getting up to speed on what it is and what it means is vital for everyone in IT, and at TechRepublic, which has a lot of good resources, Rick Freedman is wrapping up the year with an overview of the main issues surrounding cloud computing. It’s a useful read, and he breaks things down into four main categories, any one of which could be a good area in which to develop expertise:
Security: If the cloud is not secure, enterprises won’t consider migrating their sensitive data to it, and the conversation is over. You must ensure that you understand the underlying infrastructure of the cloud to which you migrate your clients; you must also advise clients to include security in their cloud SLAs and terms of service. If data center security is not your area of expertise, I’d advise engaging a security expert before migrating your client to the cloud, as service interruptions or vulnerabilities make for embarrassing and tense customer interactions.
Vendor management: When the cloud is your IT platform, and it’s in the hands of an outside firm, how do you ensure that their technical or business problems won’t become yours? Since the whole idea behind cloud computing is to offer a standardized, multi-tenant infrastructure, cloud vendors may not offer the same level of custom SLAs as IT managers are accustomed to.
Technical Integration: Most firms that migrate to the cloud do so in a hybrid model, keeping certain key elements of their infrastructure in-house and under their direct control, while outsourcing less sensitive or core components. Integrating internal and external infrastructures can be a technical quagmire.
Process and Culture: When IT power becomes cheap and easily accessed, IT’s control over its internal customers can be diluted, as we saw with the initial explosion of client-server computing. When a corporate department wasn’t getting what it wanted from IT, or wasn’t getting it fast enough, they simply went out and bought a server and a cheap, shrink-wrapped application and stuck it under the desk. You must work closely with clients to ensure that when they bring the cloud into the enterprise it’s done with all the required procedural safeguards in place.
— Don Willmott