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Cloud Services. Waiting for the 'paint to dry'?

By Phil Factor,

There is no doubt that the recent cloud ‘outages’ have tempered the more extravagant claims for the reliability of the cloud. Such things matter for many applications. The problem that affects so many of the less-experienced commentators on the IT industry is that it is hard to grasp the diversity and range of applications and their contrasting requirements. One one hand, we have games, photo stores and entertainment, and the other we have critical healthcare applications where lives can be lost if systems go down or financial applications that have economic repercussions if they fail. Many manufacturing systems can cause catastrophe if they become unavailable for any significant time. It is human nature to extrapolate from ones own experience. We therefore get over-generalised prophesies about an imminent-future that is almost entirely cloud-based.

Although it is tempting to react cynically to the worst of the Cloud evangelism, there are still plenty of ways of using Cloud services, even now in their imperfect state. It would be unwise to ignore them.

The canny CIO will make use of the obvious advantages of public cloud services where it risks neither security or availability. Adoption of the Cloud services and platforms is going to be most effective where the Cloud’s advantages of rapid scalability can be harnessed. There are other obvious candidates in development work such as bug tracking, feature-usage reporting, workflow and source control. For archiving, a move to the cloud seems obvious. For the database professional, there are plenty of other opportunities for using the cloud. Already, automated database testing is becoming easier to manage by consolidating each test environment on VM images in the cloud. It is also useful for offsite backup, or even limited Backup-as-a-Service. The design of hybrid applications is now well-proven, and there are plenty of ways for putting less critical aspects of database applications, such as reporting and monitoring, in the Cloud. I’m quite relaxed about the idea of maintaining hot standbys in the cloud, just in case. If I could find them, I’d cheerfully use cloud-based services for more mundane tasks such as formatting SQL code, checking for ‘code smalls’, detecting unused variables, finding naming inconsistencies, or checking compatibility of code with different versions of SQL Server.

So, in a year’s time. Do you see that, for your role, you could usefully exploit a wider range of Cloud services or platforms for some of the tasks that you are responsible for? Are you constrained by compliance issues, security issues or corporate policy? Are you waiting for the ‘paint to dry’ before adopting Cloud service?

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