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Is the cloud really ready for prime time?

Security, reliability hinder enterprise cloud adoption, but not startups

By , Network World
May 31, 2012 10:24 AM ET

Network World - Coupa, a 2006 startup that helps more than 200 customer companies manage purchasing and procurement, doesn't own any IT infrastructure -- it is run completely from the Amazon Web Service cloud.

Business applications don't get much more mission-critical than a company's entire operations, and Sanket Naik, who leads Coupa's cloud strategy, isn't worried about being all-in with AWS, with backup capacity in other clouds, such as Rackspace. "I know there are a lot of issues and questions around the cloud, especially about security, but I think some people are just resistant to change" if they haven't yet embraced cloud, he says. Naik is completely comfortable keeping his entire business in the cloud -- that's the way the company has always been.

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But not everyone is as willing at Coupa and Naik to move completely to the cloud. Large enterprise customers are not yet widely using public, multi-tenant clouds for mission-critical applications, according to consultants and industry experts.

"Large enterprises continue to embrace private clouds," says Andi Mann, vice president of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies, who recently wrote a blog post titled "Why the public cloud is a big fat enterprise fail." "IT organizations increasingly understand the risks, opportunities, roles and potential benefits of public and private cloud computing. And they're largely putting their chips on the private cloud card." Public cloud vendors, he argues, aren't catering to the needs of enterprises around security, interoperability and reliability. The result is reluctance on the part of enterprises to embrace the public cloud for larger, more sensitive programs.

MORE CLOUD SECURITY: Gartner: Don't trust cloud provider to protect your corporate assets

According to Gartner cloud analyst Thomas Bittman, about half of enterprise customers he works with use the public cloud for development and testing functions with the other half using it for miscellaneous applications. Few are relying on public cloud infrastructure for mission-critical applications, though.

Various studies back up the point: According to research and consultancy firm Wisegate, more than half of executive-level respondents to a recent survey indicated they would not move protected data to the public cloud because it is "too risky." Another quarter reported they have plans to investigate using a public cloud for critical application needs, but they have not yet made the change. When asked what's holding them back, 73% of respondents indicated security as the top reason for not moving to cloud-based applications for the company's critical programs.

Some cloud services providers believe their technology is getting a bad rep.

Michael Crandell, CEO and co-founder of RightScale, which is a cloud management platform that sits between the cloud users and providers, has a simple response to the question of whether the cloud is ready for mission critical apps: "Absolutely, resoundingly, yes."

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