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Top Ten Cloud Computing & Virtualization Myths

How do you determine what’s really going to work for your organization?

Like many disruptive, evolving technologies, cloud computing is going through a phase characterized by opposites: hype and exaggeration on one side, and fear and skepticism on the other. How do you determine what's really going to work for your organization? Separating the myths from the facts of cloud computing is a good place to start. Let's take a look at the top 10 cloud computing myths as we see them, and the realities behind those myths that can help you make intelligent decisions about the cloud.

Myth 10: My Data Center Is Virtualized So I Already Have the Cloud
Virtualization is a key component of the cloud, but cloud computing is about much more than virtualization. The ability to deploy and scale infrastructure rapidly and programmatically, on-demand, on a pay-as-you-go basis - that's what really defines the cloud and what is difficult if not impossible to achieve using traditional virtualization alone.

Myth 9: Cloud Application Performance Is Hampered by Network Latency and I/O Bottlenecks
Both can be issues, but the degree to which they affect performance depends on your cloud providers, network providers, applications, and cloud deployment architecture. A carefully architected deployment can often avoid these issues.

Myth 8: I Won't Have Full Ownership of My Cloud-Based Data
You can have full data ownership if you choose your cloud provider carefully and pay attention to contract terms. Data ownership is sometimes an issue with consumer social networking sites, but it is much less likely to be an issue with an infrastructure provider. Make sure you negotiate contracts that give you full ownership of your data, including the right to choose the data storage location if necessary.

Myth 7: My Data Won't Be Secure in the Cloud
Reputable cloud providers know that any serious security breaches will receive widespread publicity and damage their businesses. That's why public cloud provider security is often better than that of even most large enterprise data centers. Customers should examine contracts and SLAs carefully to ensure that they meet their organizations' data location, control, and security requirements. Sensitive data should be encrypted in transit and at rest. And be aware that security and regulatory compliance are two different things: Your data may be secure in the cloud, but you may need to wait until regulations governing your business allow cloud-based solutions before you can move it.

Myth 6: I'll Get Locked in
This depends on the service you choose. Start by asking the question: What if I need to move? Make sure your contract includes detailed provisions for a fast, smooth exit. Deploy portable cloud configurations that can be migrated quickly from one provider to another. And take advantage of deployment tools that enable quick migration and configuration.

Myth 5: The Cloud Means There's No Role Left for IT
Let's face it: Most organizations will need help from IT to choose, configure, integrate, and monitor cloud services properly and migrate applications and data to the cloud. The cloud in turn can help make IT much more agile and responsive in delivering the applications and capabilities its internal customers require. With fewer IT resources required for the nuts and bolts of infrastructure, IT has more time to spend on the strategic aspect of its role: delivering business value to the organization.

Myth 4: Cloud Computing Is for SMBs, Not Enterprises
Nope - not true. Recent studies of RightScale customers show the biggest growth in cloud usage comes from enterprises. Many cloud providers have geared up for the scalability, security, and customization needs of enterprise customers, and it's paying off. Larger companies are using the cloud for a variety of applications ranging from highly scalable brand websites to social applications, grid computing for scientific research, media processing, employee collaboration, and a number of other web-based business and consumer services.

Myth 3: Deploying Cloud Applications Is a Snap
Not always. Most IT organizations will find there's work involved in configuring, deploying, integrating, and managing cloud-based applications. However, more and more powerful deployment and management tools have become available to streamline and automate much of the process. With the right knowledge and tools and the use of best practices, deploying and scaling applications that meet your organization's requirements can be relatively painless.

Myth 2: The Cloud Is Always Less Expensive
That depends on several factors: network and bandwidth requirements, special hardware needs, the cloud service and application that are being considered, and, of course, what you're comparing the cloud to on the other side. When comparing the cost of a cloud deployment, make sure you take into account the costs of power, cooling, administration, staffing, and data center real estate for deploying the same application in-house or in traditional hosting. Don't forget to consider the "intangible" benefits of increased agility and responsiveness that a cloud deployment often provides and the business advantages and revenue that can result from a quickly realized opportunity.

Myth 1: Low Cost Is the Cloud's Chief Attraction
Low cost is a definite advantage of the cloud, but for many organizations, agility, scalability, time-to-market, and fast access to high-quality infrastructure present more compelling benefits. Cloud computing allows many businesses to get up and running fast with a new technology or scale computing power to handle peak loads much more rapidly, efficiently, and cost-effectively than they could possibly do in-house. For many businesses, the cloud provides access to infrastructure at a quantitative scale and level of operational excellence that is otherwise not attainable.

Whatever you think about cloud computing, there's no question it will continue to grow, evolve, and address issues of security, compliance, and cost. Make sure you understand the realities of the cloud, the benefits it can bring to your organization, and where you can get started quickly before making a decision. By diving in and deploying early, where it makes sense, you can build the expertise you need to take full advantage of the cloud as it matures.

More Stories By Michael Crandell

Michael Crandell is the CEO and a founder of RightScale, where he provides the vision and direction for the company as it pioneers innovative ways to bring the power of cloud computing to any organization. Crandell is a frequent speaker at cloud computing industry conferences, and he has played a major role in helping establish and promote openness and transparency in the cloud market. Prior to RightScale, he served as CEO at several Internet software-as-a-service (SAAS) companies and as executive vice president at eFax.com. Crandell received his B.A. from Stanford University and completed graduate studies at Harvard University.

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