Cloud Computing: Watch Out IT, It's Raining Jargon

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When I was on a conference call recently with about 30 CIOs from some big-name U.S. companies, and the moderator asked if anyone was using Amazon's Elastic Compute, you could not hear a peep. Anyone even seriously considering it? Silence, again.

What's the problem? Some CIOs still have not bought into the SaaS concept, and some have good reason for that stance. Whether SaaS works ROI-wise depends on your IT group, budget, need for customization, and a host of other factors.

CIOs who worry about security and compliance issues with regards to SaaS have told me that they have these same concerns, but even more so, when you start talking about the Amazon vision of the cloud.

That's a hurdle that Bezos, Benioff and the hundreds of application developers who plug into Salesforce.com's force platform will have to jump. I wouldn’t bet against their ability to do so in the long term. But it will take time.

There's one more aspect to "the cloud" that IT leaders should understand. As we recently reported, software industry upstart rPath is using virtualization technology to help software vendors move further away from traditional software development. rPath offers services and infrastructure that lets software vendors dish up software to customers inside a virtual machine. That self-contained VM can live on a physical server or that VM can live offsite, accessed via "the cloud." That is, via the Internet. This model presents a lot of compelling benefits for both users and software vendors. (rPath, incidentally, is an Amazon EC2 customer.)  

Many of you are now realizing that you know more about cloud computing than you'd thought. If you're using a SaaS app in your enterprise, you're using "the cloud." If you run your personal life via Google tools, you're tapping into "the cloud." If you're using Amazon's EC2 service for your enterprise, e-mail me. I want to hear your story and share what you've learned with other CIOs.

As for the industry buzz on "the cloud," it's here to stay. You're going to see "the cloud" in plenty of articles in the mainstream press. This term is not likely to pop out of Katie Couric's mouth anytime soon, but you'll probably hear some people talk about it without having any good idea what it is. By all means, IT leaders, be ready when these folks stop by your office to chat. 

This all reminds me of that vague, jargon-laden "information superhighway" talk back in the day when people didn’t understand "where" the Web was. Let's hope we don’t take so long to get our heads out of the clouds this time.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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