[Warning… rambling mind walk following]
I’m here at PDC 2008 and having a rather good time attending sessions, talking with experts, speaking with vendors, etc. It has been a pretty good conference and I’ve done a better job than previously at managing my ability to pay attention (i.e. I don’t necessarily *have* to attend a session during every available slot, and, amazingly, there’s a good chance that taking a break b/t will help me pay attention better at the next one…
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the Windows Azure announcements and having discussions with a couple of my colleagues and also the CIO where I’ve been working for the past couple of years and I’m left wondering what value the “cloud” and the cloud computing platform provides me with… Don’t get me wrong… I completely get it for the consumer market… there is huge value there, and some of my work with some non-profits and consumer-facing organizations might benefit significantly from these services. I can even see benefits in some internal-to-the-same-business corporate scenarios, however I think the uptake is going to be slow simply due to an unwillingness (warranted or not) for companies to “trust” Microsoft (or Google or Amazon for that matter) with their core corporate data.
The problem for me, is that for the past few years I’ve been working at an institution in the US public sector… we’ve been “pushing the envelope” a good bit and are more willing than most to adopt new technologies… but I don’t think that I as an app architect for this organization, nor I as a citizen of this country, necessarily want us posting federal information to “a cloud” controlled by someone other than the same federal entity… and I don’t think that this is necessarily unique to the US federal space… I would have an equally difficult time seeing any other government being willing to take this leap of faith.
However, the principals of the cloud are, in fact, very interesting… should those of us in the public sector be banished to a life of permanent disconnectedness? I think not… What I’m leaving the conference wondering… is how does a federal entity (for any country) provide a “safe cloud” to its users? One in which much of the flexibility/extensibility that is provided in the “public” cloud is still available, however wherein the data and services are completely controlled by the specific government… This, of course, brings up a number of issues… if the given agency completely hosts/controls the “cloud” services… do they cease to be “cloud” services and simply manifest themselves as renamed corporate services? This is certainly a possibility but then I think those of us within the various agencies/sectors need to think of ways to broaden the scope of smaller clouds that we will be building… can the Gov’t of India (US, Canada, or insert country name here) build a single set of “cloud” services that is available only for use by it’s authorized agencies and still see manifested the benefits of scale, abstraction, etc. that are being touted for the “public” cloud? Does a given government build a single cloud? or one for each agency? or some mix in the middle? Will MSFT (or some other vendor) provide tools and platforms that not only allow you to connect to “their” cloud, but also allow you to build your own cloud?