by Michael Bullock

Public Cloud Computing Shows Its Limits

Dec 14, 2009
Data Center

Welcome to the hybrid world. Recent outages show the growing pains of public cloud service provider offerings.

I’ve hardly been alone in my skepticism about cloud computing and my belief that public cloud computing for the enterprise is not ready for prime time.  But I’m sensing a general global warming on the subject.  So my job here is to chill those enthusiasts out. 

Here’s what I said back in January in my top 5 predictions for 2009 (Hype Overload): “There will be a well publicized cloud computing disaster in 2009 – probably linked to security, reliability or service restoration delays.”

Was I right? You be the judge.

• Google alone had 7 significant outages. Google outages damage cloud credibility (PC World).

• Amazon had at least 3 outages including taking down the Amazon retail site. Outage for Amazon web service (Data Center Knowledge).

• A outage lasting nearly a day cut off access to critical business data for many of the company’s customers on Tuesday in what appears to be Salesforce’s most severe service disruption to date. Salesforce outage angers customers (cnet news).

• And of course security has been a concern. See The Cloud Security Survival Guide.

So there were over a dozen significant outages at Google, Amazon and Salesforce alone.  I hate to say I told you so . . . but, in fact, I told you so.  The only surprising thing here is the widespread numbness to these failures that helps keep the hype coming.

And why do people gloss over these disasters? It’s because, in truth, very little serious, mission critical, life-threatening, or deep financial work is going on in public clouds.  So as long as nobody dies, loses millions, or breaches thousands or millions of personal records, I suppose the indifference will continue. At the same time, until those entities promoting the public option get it right (Google, Amazon, and Salesforce), I seriously doubt you will see many businesses choosing the public option.

The security issues alone are huge and keeping many applications out of the cloud: PCI (payment card industry), HIPAA, information privacy laws like 201 CMR 17.00 in Massachusetts (and similar laws in other states) make it almost impossible to insure adequate security in the cloud.

These security concerns (never mind the reliability issues) mean that it will be a long, long time before you see companies making a full transition to public cloud services. However, in the near term, these companies will continue to leverage stand-alone cloud applications where it makes sense (like  They will continue to develop their internal virtualized infrastructure to look more and more like a private cloud. But this approach is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Some vendors seem to get this evolutionary approach. They understand that the old must work with the new. They understand that applications and infrastructure are equally important to adopting cloud computing in the enterprise.  They also understand that with the cloud’s increased infrastructure flexibility comes complexity that must be managed and monitored in order to assure the highest availability of applications to the users. After all, that’s the only true measure of success. 

So the companies to watch in 2010 that can enable these hybrid cloud/legacy applications include:

• Cisco, EMC and VMware which, through a joint venture called Acadia, have partnered to accelerate internal cloud development with unified management of the data center.

• Nimsoft, which has one of the most advanced platforms for monitoring and measuring end-to-end applications in a hybrid internal/public cloud environment. By tracking end-to-end application performance in addition to physical infrastructure Nimsoft enables application monitoring independent of the underlying infrastructure.

• IBM (with a good hybrid cloud vision) and Cordys, the latest Jan Baan company with a focus on enterprise cloud enablement.

As always, I welcome feedback, questions and comments.  And if you know of other companies effectively enabling cloud computing with an impact on the enterprise you believe similar to those listed above, I’d be interested in learning more. You may reach me at  

Michael Bullock is the founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services (TDS), a Boston, MA-based consulting firm focusing on green data centers, data center consolidation / relocation, enterprise applications and technical operations.  Prior to founding TDS, Bullock held executive leadership positions at Student Advantage, CMGI and Renaissance Worldwide.