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Cloud computing not ready for critical apps

Educational Testing Service (ETS), developer of the SAT and other tests, runs applications on software-as-a-service platforms such as Salesforce.com. And CIO Daniel Wakeman has benchmarked internal servers against Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service.

Costs for both were similar, and cloud computing services like EC2 would enable ETS, which has a highly cyclical business, to ramp its processing capacity up or down as needed. But Wakeman said he's limiting the company's cloud use to pilot projects and development testing — “things that don't require full levels of security.”

Cloud computing vendors such as Amazon and Google still aren't ready to meet corporate IT needs, according to Wakeman and other Premier 100 conference attendees. Security concerns topped the list of shortcomings, but they also cited reliability, availability and manageability issues.

“I probably wouldn't put anything mission-critical in the cloud now,” said Manjit Singh, CIO at Chiquita Brands International Inc. Singh hopes to be able to do so eventually, but he's also worried that if he decided to switch cloud providers, his data might not be returned to him in a recognizable form — raising the specter of vendor lock-in.

The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency is deploying an internal cloud service for use by the Department of Defense. In the future, DISA CIO John Garing wants to use external services as well. But if things continue as they are at cloud vendors, “we're going to be at an impasse,” Garing said.

Martin Colburn, chief technology officer at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in Washington, also isn't ready to put his trust in cloud services. Cloud computing is still in the “innovation stage,” he said, adding that its vendors will have to be as capable of withstanding IT audits as outsourcers are.

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