Cloud Computing Is a Tool, Not a Strategy

black_stretch_logo1This week I’m listening in as HP talks to some of its customers about cloud computing. Today’s webinar was a pretty good overview of how enterprises should think about using the cloud to deliver IT services — and underneath that, why the cloud really isn’t quite ready for enterprise adoption.

David Cannon, who works for HP (s HPQ) helping customers use IT to meet business goals, reminded the audience that the cloud right now is a tool that can help large companies by delivering highly scalable compute capacity on demand, but isn’t the underlying capabilities or service that IT needs to deliver to the business or the business’s end customers.

“The cloud makes it possible for you to access resources, so you can don’t have to control IT resources device by device, but with the cloud, the resources are available to everyone. We all have resources, what makes us different is in the area of capabilities we deliver on top of them,” Cannon said.

It was kind of like an enterprise IT pep talk. Which was nice, especially since the rest of the webinar was a bit of a downer for anyone hoping that the availability of on-demand computer resources was going to make their jobs easier. Instead, HP thinks IT’s role becomes one of evaluating the best cloud for a specific job. Things to consider include service-level agreements in various clouds, where a cloud may be located, and several other factors we’ve previously mentioned as well.

The logical solution to these issues is that someone will build a class of enterprise-level clouds, possibly designed to host types of information or applications that require certain service-level agreements, or even to be located in certain geographic regions. Russ Daniels, CTO of HP’s Cloud Services Strategy, agrees, and says HP may even provide a few of these clouds, and will work with customers that will provide even more domain-specific or vertically-focused clouds.

However, Daniels also believes it’s a bit early on to be thinking about portability between clouds, so don’t look for those domain specific clouds yet, unless you’re certain you want to stay with them. But thanks to data exchange standards like XML, he said via chat during the webinar, interoperability is in better shape now.

“The high rate of innovation drives providers to integrated and proprietary architectures — the typical approach in new markets,” Daniels said. “Interestingly providers exploit open source and open standards to build these integrated and proprietary platforms. As the cloud market matures the pendulum will swing back to open standards.”

However, a lack of portability and some vendor lock-in is likely, he thinks, which is yet another reason that enterprises may want to keep their data out of the clouds for a bit longer.