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Windows managers eye the cloud but keep a safe distance

Even with the easy bake Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud package for private cloud servers, Windows managers want more time to watch the cloud story unfold.

BERLIN – With the new, pre-tested and certified configurations Microsoft now offers with partners, the company hopes to entice conservative enterprise customers to dabble in cloud computing.

At TechEd Europe 2010 here this month, the software company joined forces with Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM and NEC to create Hyper-V Cloud. Pre-configured servers with deployment guidance make building private clouds doable for average IT shops by providing all of the necessary servers, storage and networking deemed appropriate for the cloud.

I’d consider a private cloud, but I’m not sure about the route. Cloud isn't Hyper-V.

Marco de Rosa, IT director, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Whether Hyper-V Cloud is easy or not, in most Windows shops, IT managers are loath to mess with the status quo. And, although they are interested in cloud computing and software as a service model, they are also adamant in their belief that vendors do not have all the pieces to make a trustworthy alternative to their current premises-based computing environments.

Many IT professionals are convinced that current cloud options won’t pass muster with regulators, and they are still not clear on how to get their data out of somewhere once it gets in. Products today seem complex. And perhaps worst of all is the lurking fear that someone will lose his job. IT architects may be safe, but those IT admins who are responsible for packaging and sequencing could be toast.

Getting the basics

But it doesn’t hurt to look, and scores of IT managers have crammed into sessions to learn about cloud computing basics and how-to tips, as well as sessions that explained long-range roadmaps for many of Microsoft’s basic server and management products.

With about 70% of its development resources devoted to cloud computing, according to Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of management and security at Microsoft, the company remains deep in the process of educating its customers by explaining the value and different scenarios encompassed by Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options.

In the case of PaaS, applications are specially written for the cloud so they can take advantage of pooled resources or an expandable architecture. Google AppEngine and Azure offer examples of this. IaaS gives IT shops a way to scale out traditional applications, but it’s not a truly elastic environment. Amazon’s EC2, VMware and Azure (with the recently disclosed VM role) fit into this group. And SaaS is essentially an application subscription.

Each might find a fit in an enterprise, or, perhaps not quite yet.

“I’d consider a private cloud, but I’m not sure about the route,” said Marco de Rosa, IT director at Fondazione Bruno Kessler, a Trento, Italy-based research institution. “Cloud isn’t Hyper-V.”

Another skeptical IT manager recognized that cloud computing may solve some of the problems facing his bank today and that it’s part of the future of computing, but there is still a lot to learn about cloud.

“Where will it be five years down the line?” said Andreas Theodosiou, head of networking and technology infrastructure at Marfin Laiki Bank, in Nicosia, Cyprus. “Also, it takes a lot of fact-finding to get the benefits you expect.”

Microsoft’s Office 365, the recently refreshed hosted version of its Office suite, did catch Theodosiou’s attention, particularly since Office is familiar territory.

Reaping benefits

For most IT shops, cost containment or reduction is important. Cloud computing proponents claim that IT shops can get great economic value, not to mention added business agility. Tim O’Brian, director of the Platform Strategy Group at Microsoft, said the drive to cloud computing will be pushed by its great economics -- essentially “what has driven capitalism forever,” he said.

But Angelos Chatzikostas, an IT manager at a law enforcement agency based in the U.K., said economics is just one piece. “It’s all about trust,” he said. “Can I trust you? We need rules, plus, there are still big disconnects between IT shops and their own corporate legal departments.”

For more on how the cloud is changing IT check out this special report.

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