SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Is cloud computing misunderstood? In some ways it's hard to think there'd be much confusion about the widely-hyped technology that receives no shortage of coverage in the trade and mainstream business media. And even at the consumer level, ecommerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has helped popularize understanding of "the cloud" via its fast-growing, cloud offering Amazon Web Services (AWS).
But keynoters here at the Cloud Connect conference pointed to key differences between public cloud services like AWS and so-called private cloud services offered by traditional IT suppliers like HP (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) that have a bearing on IT adoption.
Randy Bias, CEO and founder at consulting firm Cloudscaling, said the traditional data center approach embodied by a private cloud infrastructure doesn't scale. Bias said it's a myth that Amazon can't serve enterprise needs. "One myth is that when enterprises adopt a cloud infrastructure, it's largely to move out legacy apps," said Bias. "But we see that most enterprises are actually using the cloud to launch Greenfield applications."
He also pointed to Netflix as an example of a company moving its considerable infrastructure to AWS for its wildly popular video rental and streaming business.
"The battle is between Amazon's commodity cloud services and the others," said Bias. He claimed it can cost between six to eight times as much to build a private cloud versus using a service like AWS. Is there a 6x improvement in security and performance? That's hard to conceive; I haven't seen it."
Later, another keynoter, Kevin McEntee, vice president of systems engineering at Netflix, said his company's move to AWS was sparked by a system failure in 2008 in the company's data center that disrupted operations, including delivery of DVDs. "That gave us a black eye," he said. "We needed to move to redundant data centers and we looked to the cloud . We went for high availability but also we've found new agility for our software developers and our business and eliminated a lot of complexity."
But another speaker, Mathew Lodge, senior director of cloud product marketing at VMware, said many companies are more likely to take a hybrid approach to the cloud that preserves more of their infrastructure investment.
"A Wall Street firm with 1,600 to 2,000 different apps is not going to rewrite them for the public cloud," said Lodge. "They also want to continue to run those applications locally." Lodge also ticked off a number of concerns enterprises have that the public cloud may not address including security controls, auditing and compliance features.
HP has been a strong proponent of the hybrid cloud computing model. Asked to comment on Bias's remarks, HP's Kevin Karcher said there is so much discussion about the cloud that it's easy to get lost in the distinctions between services.
"They are all valid models, but there is a big difference between pay-as-you-go services like Amazon's and running mission critical applications," Karcher, director of infrastructure technology outsourcing at HP, told InternetNews.com. "When we talk about enterprise cloud services it's not about running something for three days, a month or a year, but your core applications, SAP, bankroll and all the back office stuff."
Clouds and mini-clouds
Lew tucker, CTO at Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), echoed comments by other speakers that the cloud computing industry is in the very early stages of development. "There are over five billion devices connected today and there's an enormous growth in devices that do things like measure the electricity use in your home," said Tucker. He also envisions a day when cars will become like like "mini-clouds" communicating with other cars on the road to let drivers know how bad the traffic is ahead.
"That's where we're going to need advances in security," he quipped. "I don't want anyone messing with my brakes."