GUEST COLUMN: Be honest, be corporate, be cloud

- Tuesday, June 14, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: Be honest, be corporate, be cloud

By Sergio Rademacher, manager of Qumulos

Situations like what happened with Amazon are without a doubt putting cloud computing to the test.

For those who are unaware, at the end of April an unexpected interruption in Amazon.com's cloud computing service caused a series of problems for many users of platforms such as Foursquare, Quora or Reddit. The event, which received extensive coverage by press and online media, generated a snowball of questions about cloud's security.

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While this occurrence triggered a crisis for many cloud service providers, for some of us it implied a real opportunity. Why? Because it represents a unique opportunity to lobby for making a budding industry's offer transparent, and service levels clear.

Nowadays, it's not fair to lump all cloud providers together, as Amazon's case is rather particular. Here we are dealing with companies that apparently were unaware of the service levels they were going to receive, nor were they 100% clear about the associated risks.

Can this be? Absolutely. There is currently no clarity surrounding the different offerings of suppliers, especially in three areas - security (how secure is my information), availability (how likely is it that the service will be interrupted) and, lastly, performance (how is my application going to perform in the cloud).

In the case of this incident, there are plenty of reasonable enough questions about whether the service level agreement (SLA) was violated, or whether the contractual stipulations were indeed fulfilled. Reasonably assuming that the affected companies didn't want to be without a system for more than 36 hours, at the very least we can say there is a communication problem between the customer and the provider.

WHAT'S NOT WRITTEN DOESN'T EXIST

When users contract a service, they need to have a clear understanding of what services they are paying for. How can this be achieved?

On the provider's part, by being transparent in delivering information and explicit about what is being delivered. Today, in a context created by occurrences such as what happened with Amazon, transparency is a differential, especially in an industry that works with a critical asset such as information.

On the customer's side, by being informed, asking questions and raising objections. It's not enough that the provider says a service interruption is impossible; the question is how the provider backs up this assertion.

The market and the users have to understand and be discriminating. A cloud commodity like Amazon's is not the same as the enterprise cloud - the new generation of cloud providers that is emerging.

Staying informed and asking questions are the keys to avoiding unpleasant surprises. There's no harm in asking, as the old saying goes.

The cloud is not an act of faith, but an IT service just like any other. Granted, it can be more efficient and convenient.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this piece is entirely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Business News Americas. We encourage Guest Column pieces, and those interested in submitting one for possible publication should contact the editor at cmolinari@bnamericas.com