The migration to the cloud is well under way. Like little water drops evaporating, data and applications are heading from the vast ocean of On Premise Servers and databases to the great cumulonimbus in the sky.

With guys like Marc Benioff as the flamboyant ringleader, there’s no wonder why there is so much hype. Slowly and steadily over the past several years, salesforce.com, one of the earliest pioneers in cloud computing, has been evolving from its CRM SaaS (Software as a Service) roots into a more complete cloud computing platform, casting a vision that extends their Software as a Service platform beyond CRM, but also provides Data as a Service, and Database.com, which is aimed at being an agnostic cross technology/cross operating system data platform.

Hyperbole aside, there are indeed proven and valuable benefits that cloud computing has ushered in. Some of these include:

- Quick deployment
– No (or limited) CapEx investment
– Rapid scalability
– Lower maintenance costs

Microsoft with its Azure platform, and the Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud, among countless other providers illustrate the current demand and mass movement towards cloud computing, and increasingly validate the trend as being viable for a growing number of business scenarios.

But as much of the the marketplace rushes to the cloud, others are moving back to On Premise deployments. Concerns about data security have largely been answered, but data governance and management are still at the top of CIOs minds. In some scenarios, cost, system speed, or integration requirements with other legacy systems become a challenge. And I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the near future, one of the large cloud players gets hacked, sparking a backlash against the cloud computing model.

As someone put it yesterday on Twitter (let me know if you said it and I’ll give attribution), bank robbers go where the greatest amount of money is, hackers go where the greatest amount of data is.

According to an article on Biztech2.com, Stephen Mann, an analyst with Ovum recently stated:

“There is currently a buzz around SaaS, but CIOs need to ensure their decision to introduce it is based on a strong business case, rather than on the back of industry hype. SaaS is now becoming a mainstream part of the corporate IT mix but using it for the right reasons, in the right places and in the right way within an organisation is crucial. CIOs need to establish this before embarking on an implementation project.”

I agree with his assessment. In the CRM space, some companies have abandoned or avoided salesforce.com in favor of options like Microsoft CRM or Sage SalesLogix because of their flexibility to move and manage data and portions of the application stack between the Cloud, On Premise, or a combination of both.

Recognizing the trend, Enterprise 2.0 vendor SocialText today announced a migration service for those unsatisfied with Clould provider Yammer. They contend that the new offering has the potential to bring IT personnel greater control, more predictable costs, and better security. In a recent conversation, SocialText Co-Founder, Chairman, and President Ross Mayfield shared stories with me about how several organizations have come to SocialText, frustrated with having to pay money to use basic services such as managing users, segmenting data, or to simply get their data out. Mayfield contends that Yammer has a model that “VC’s love, users like, and IT personnel don’t like”.

The future of computing isn’t cloud, nor On Premise exclusively – it’s a hybrid of both where applications, data, and devices interact to help users find, analyze, consume, and contribute information across a myriad of interfaces, data sets, and physical locations. A blend of Cloud, On Premise, and Web Services all play a part in designing the information management systems of the future.

Piecing all of that together and creating the right mix is a challenge that CIOs, with the assistance of practitioners will continue to sort out over the next several years.

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