As we put this special issue on cloud computing to bed, Amazon is explaining--and apologizing for--the outage of its Amazon Web Service and Elastic Compute Cloud data centers. The cloud service provider's problems temporarily took out popular web-based services from Reddit, Quora and Foursquare, and had an impact on many other businesses that have yet to be named.
Hot on the heels of the Amazon cloud debacle came an admission from Sony that its security had been breached not once, but twice, possibly exposing up to 100 million of Sony Online Entertainment customers' names, birth dates and addresses, as well as some customers' credit card information.
The Silver Lining
Are these the high-profile, one-two punches to uptime and security that will knock out cloud computing? No. In fact, these are good things. These are the growing pains any new technology must experience on its way to maturity. Cloud computing, at its core, is a good idea. That's a statement many of you won't agree with, according to our research.
When asked via an email survey if they were using cloud computing, more than a third (37%) of DE's readers said "No, but we might in the future." Those open-minded respondents were offset by the 35% who said, "No, we are anti-cloud."
Why the Cloud?
Here's why I think many of those anti-cloud respondents will eventually come around:
1. Convenience. People are becoming accustomed to having 24/7 access to their data. In the age of Facebook and Google Docs, tomorrow's workers will expect to access their work data from anywhere.
2. Portable functionality. Computers are getting smaller, thanks in large part to their reliance on Internet-based services for much of their functionality. There are already mobile apps available that allow engineers to store and access product lifecycle management data, as well as view, edit and share DWG drawings and 3D models. More are on the way.
3. Competition. The cost and speed benefits made possible by the cloud will eventually force many companies to adopt it to keep up with their rivals.
4. Maturation. The security and uptime issues with the cloud will be addressed. As one DE survey respondent put it, "I believe the companies that host data in the cloud have better security measure than I can muster." High-profile breaches will serve to strengthen security over the long haul.
5. Due diligence. Companies that use the cloud will implement contingency plans in case something goes wrong at the cloud service provider. They'll also do their homework and demand that cloud service providers have adequate backup, redundancy and security measures in place.
Engineering on the cloud is still in its early stages. It's up to cloud computing providers to find the sweet spot of customer acceptance and functionality that will help cloud computing catch on in the enterprise. Not every application is suited to running entirely on the cloud, mainly because of security and bandwidth reasons. However, there is plenty of room for innovation by offloading certain data crunching to the cloud, accessing software on demand and enabling global collaboration.
And for the 10% of our survey respondents who answered our survey question with "What is cloud computing?" We hope the articles in this issue will answer that question for you.
Jamie J. Gooch is the managing editor of DE. Send comments about this subject to firstname.lastname@example.org.