All of the cloud naysayers are pointing to the recent news about PaaS cloud provider Coghead shutting down as an “I told you so” opportunity to cast cloud computing off as nothing more than hype.
I think the real lesson learned here is that enterprises who think they can jump to the cloud without planning for outages, disasters, and vendor stability are the ones that are really over hyped. My first question to companies who drank the Coghead Koolaid is why would you risk writing applications on a proprietary platform with a startup Platform as a Service (PaaS) provider without having a plan for what to do if they closed the doors? In fact, unless you are deep in bed with Salesforce.com, why would anybody lock themselves into a PaaS provider’s proprietary platform for any reason? At least if your Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider goes belly up your odds of quickly migrating to another provider is much greater. In fact, I would argue that if you are building mission critical applications in the cloud it would be in your best interest to be deployed on more than one provider anyways; even if it is in an active-passive mode.
Then I heard all of the screams about GMail being down and how the cloud is not fit for the enterprise. Does your corporate Outlook never fail? Come on! I would like to see a comparison of Gmail’s uptime against the average corporate email services uptime. I would bet that GMail has a better track record than most.
Getting back to the Coghead issue, I read this article called Coghead Failure Highlights Risks of Cloud Computing. The key to risks is mitigating them. Clearly, many companies are not doing a good job of risk management. Here are some quotes from the article.
Davis is still a huge proponent of cloud computing — but a wiser one. “We’ll be a little more wary with startups, as we realize the risk of going with one can be real,” Davis said.
No one should expect cloud computing to be infallible; software and servers never are, no matter where they reside.
The promise of cloud computing has launched many PaaS startups: ….. It would be unfair to link them to Coghead just because they’re startups, as some of them may grow into huge success stories. Still, others will not. And with any cloud computing effort, it’s up to users to have an emergency exit strategy in place. Just in case.
We have been dealing with vendors closing their doors since the beginning of time. Why does one cloud vendor going belly up scare people so much? Did you know that in 2007, 480 companies that build storage devices for your on-premise needs either went out of business, merged, were renamed, or were acquired? Did anybody announce the death of storage devices because of this? I didn’t think so.
So yes, there are some real risks with cloud computing and without a plan to mitigate each risk cloud computing can expose a company to disastrous consequences. But the same thing can be said for your on-premise data center. Moving from on-premise to the cloud does not mean you don’t have to worry about risk mitigation anymore. In fact, one should probably focus on it even more. So let’s stop the “cloud is failing” nonsense and learn from the mistakes of others who put all of their eggs in one PaaS startup basket. To me, the biggest risk in the cloud is IT’s understanding of the technical and business risks and the mitigation strategy that IT puts in place.