I thought @Beaker summarized the discussion about cloud computing when he tweeted, “I'm convinced that sum ppl writing abt the implications ...of Cloud have no ….idea wht U're talking abt.” @beaker’s work at Cisco  makes him at least as much as an expert as anyone I’ve encountered, so I retweeted, only to hear that others are concerned about the quality of information available about the cloud and cloud services.

At about the same time, Lauren Carlson, CRM Analyst at Software Advice, blogged about how high-profile cloud failures convinced the mainstream media and others that cloud services are somehow less secure than on-premise systems.


Citing the recent failure of Amazon’s EC2, she wrote, When things go awry in the cloud, many companies are affected. Because these periods of downtime are public knowledge, it creates a misconception that cloud computing is unreliable and should be avoided. However, when things falter with on-premise systems, it is hidden behind the corporate curtain.

She elaborates further, “Like their cloud computing counterparts, on-premise systems make promises on up-time. The difference is that when outages occur inside organizations, we typically don’t hear about it. Therefore, the perception of the always-on on-premise model is skewed.”

Carlson looks at factors that support the premise that cloud delivery should actually be more reliable than on-premise solutions, offering this quote from Walter Scott, CEO, GFI Software, “’Cloud-based solution vendors not only have the latest technology, the latest firewalls, the best data centers and the highest levels of redundancy possible but they will apply multiple layers of [in-depth defense] that your average business (a Fortune 500 company may be an exception) can never have.’ "

Particularly compelling is a 2008 Radicati Group study that found that Groupwise, Lotus, and Exchange email systems experienced between 4 and 10 times more downtime than Gmail (see the figure).

Single points of failure, Carlson concludes, must be eliminated from system architecture.

In that regard, cloud systems differ little from enterprise solutions. Entire industries devote their efforts to finding and eliminating single points of failure. I believe Carlson’s argument suggest that the redundancy inherent in the cloud make it the better reliability solution for all but a few enterprises, and that the financial strength of the most prominent cloud providers makes them most likely to solve the barriers to full availability and reliability.

I’m impressed by Laura’s argument and am adding her blog to the blogroll on this page, so that you can follow her posts more easily. What do you think?

I’m leery of joining those who write about the implications of cloud without understanding the arguments.