Stormy weather: 7 gotchas in cloud computing

Users hit turbulence on the trip to cloud computing

Many vendors reimburse customers for lost service. Amazon.com, for example, applies a 10 percent credit if S3 availability dips below 99.9 percent in a month.

Vendor Expertise

One of the biggest enticements of cloud computing is the promise of IT without the IT staff. However, veteran cloud users are adamant that this is not what you get. In fact, since many cloud vendors are new companies, their expertise -- especially with enterprise-level needs -- can be thin, says Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president at Serena Software. It's essential to supplement providers' skills with those of your own in-house staff, he adds.

"The reality is that most of the companies operating these services are not nearly as experienced as we hoped they would be," Bonvanie says.

The inexperience shows up in application stability, especially when users need to integrate applications for functions like cross-application customer reporting, he says.

Serena itself provides a cloud-based application life-cycle management system, and it has decided to run most of its own business in the cloud as well. It uses a suite of office productivity applications from Google, a marketing automation application from MarketBright and an on-demand billing system from Aria Systems.

So far, it has pushed its sales and marketing automation, payroll, intranet management, collaboration software and content management systems to the cloud. The only noncloud application is SAP, for which Serena outsourced management to an offshore firm.

According to Bonvanie, "the elimination of labor associated with cloud computing is greatly exaggerated."

The onus is still on the cloud consumer when it comes to integration. "Not only are you dealing with more moving parts, but they're not always as stable as you might think," he says.

"Today, there's no complete suite of SaaS applications, no equivalent of Oracle or R/3, and I don't think there ever will be," Bonvanie says. "Therefore, we in IT get a few more things pushed to us that are, quite honestly, not trivial."

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