Cloud Computing Poses Control Issues for IT

As data moves into the cloud, one of the most precious things that IT leaders will need to give up is some level of control. Will vendors be able to strike a palatable balance between IT's need for agility and control?

By Kevin Fogarty
Wed, May 12, 2010

CIO — Though most U.S. companies still list customer and other corporate information as their most valuable assets, many keep pushing this data farther from safe lockdown in the data center—and are about to give it another strong shove in that direction.

Cloud computing and efforts to virtualize internal storage, servers, client hardware and even the movement of bits in and out of a server allows IT to design systems according to the needs of end users, rather than the location and limitations of on-site hardware.

One common fear about data in the cloud: What happens to it once it leaves building?

End-user companies probably won't completely lose track of data in the cloud, according to Chris Wolf, infrastructure and virtualization analyst at The Burton Group. They are likely to lose some level of control over not only who accesses the data, but also when and for what purpose, he says.

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On a related note, companies must also be able to audit usage of sensitive data, keep restricted data in Europe or other places where regulations are tight, and comply with all the other requirements spreading out to define proper use of corporate data.

It's not a disaster waiting to happen, but the control issue will keep many companies from using cloud technology, or even advanced storage technology, to its best advantage, Wolf says.

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EMC (EMC), for example, is developing technology for its high-end storage products that goes far beyond current storage virtualization technology, which still associates storage volumes with specific spindles or storage arrays, according to Brian Gallagher, general manager of EMC's EMC Symmetrix and virtual products groups.

"Virtual Storage," would make it possible to make the most cost-effective use of storage hardware and move data around at need, or at whim, Gallagher says.

"Theoretically, you could shift terabytes or petabytes of data from New York to Alaska for batch-processing overnight because the power in the Alaska data center is so much cheaper than New York," Gallagher says. "You should be able to do that from one console, almost with a couple of mouse clicks or drag-and-drop."

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Losing critical data in the cloud isn't a huge issue right now, mostly because companies that want to put data that's more critical than a Gmail account into the cloud keep that data on internal clouds, or keep the whole cloud within their own walls, according to Bill Gillis, eHealth technical director, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

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