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Success in the cloud ultimately hinges on quality. The
problem is that when you depend on the public Internet to deliver your
services, quality is largely out of your control.

What do I mean by quality? I’m talking about the combination
of availability, performance and security that ultimately will inspire end
users to embrace or forgo cloud computing, presumed cost savings
notwithstanding.

That quality is itself dependent on the quality of local
infrastructures, Internet traffic, application performance, data safety and
control, and the ever-looming risk of outages. The latter is of particular
concern, in light of recent outages affecting Microsoft BPOS (Business
Productivity Office Suite) and Amazon’s cloud services.

For productivity applications, such as Office or email,
Internet and infrastructure shortcomings present serious obstacles for cloud
adoption by end users. Solution providers will have a hell of a time convincing
people to replace relatively stable systems residing on their desktops or
servers with cloud services that could suffer outages or performance
degradation at the most inconvenient times.

I don’t mean to darken anyone’s perception of the cloud,
since I am a strong advocate of cloud-based computing. As I pointed out in a recent
column about mobility and remote control
, the cloud is revolutionizing how
we use technology.

But I am also a realist, and let’s face it, cloud computing
still presents some potential pitfalls that should give you pause before
embarking on a major project to replace legacy systems.

As I see it, the problem really has to do with the Internet.
While end users will access more and more resources in the public cloud over
time, the fact is the Internet still leaves much to be desired when it comes to
performance.

Consider video. While YouTube is an unqualified success,
video quality isn’t the best. OK, so maybe it doesn’t need to be for most
purposes. But then consider Netflix’s movie-streaming service. It’s convenient,
yes, but the quality you get on your Internet-connected TV or PC isn’t the same
you get when you pop in a DVD. After you’ve spent a couple thousand dollars on
a LED high-def screen, you want the best quality possible.

The same is true when it comes to computer networks. You
won’t want to deal with Internet lag and slow applications in the office,
especially after investing in infrastructure.

And that poses a serious problem for solution providers to
tackle when it comes to the cloud. Cloud computing carries the appeal of easy
access to cutting-edge technology at an affordable price, but no amount of
savings is going to make up for inferior service quality. You don’t want
inferior service from your bank teller and favorite restaurant waitress, and
you certainly won’t tolerate it when it comes to the tools you use in doing
your job.

So, then, what’s a solution provider to do? Give up on the
cloud? Certainly not. The cloud is the way of the future, but solution
providers must tread carefully and make sure that whatever services they manage
for their customers are indeed cloud-ready.

This may mean putting off the cloud-based resources that
don’t quite yet perform at the level of their legacy counterparts. It also
means providers should conduct thorough assessments of their clients’ IT
infrastructures to ensure they have enough bandwidth and up-to-date gear to
handle cloud services. This, of course, is bound to lead to added revenue
opportunities.

One way around the shortcomings of the public cloud is to
implement a private cloud that leverages virtualization and public cloud-like
technology while keeping resources within network walls. I suspect that
ultimately a hybrid approach, with some resources residing within the network
and others accessed in the cloud, will be the preferred choice.

The cloud is unstoppable. It’s hard to imagine a future in
which cloud computing won’t play a major role in our lives, but to get there,
first we are going to need some serious quality assurance.

 

Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel
Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at
pedrocolumn@gmail.com.