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TechEd 2009: Cloud computing not a hot topic

Moving software development and testing to cloud environments wasn’t a hot topic at Microsoft TechEd 2009 in Los Angeles. Sure, there were some TechEd sessions on cloud computing, and
Microsoft cloud computing evangelist Steve Martin talked up Azure; but a good number of attendees, particularly in the software development field, said cloud isn’t on their agenda now.

“People are waiting to see if cloud computing has staying power and what its true importance will be,” said Wayne Ariola, strategy vice president for Parasoft Corp. told me.

Then again, some attendees and vendors at the show are gung-ho about the cloud. For example, Greg Allen — First Financial Bank SCCM 2007 administrator — told me he’s keen on Microsoft’s virtualization and cloud technologies.

Let’s take a look at what people on both sides of the cloud had to say at TechEd.

Some attendees said that development teams with a wait-and-see cloud adoption strategy could be eating early adopters’ dust. They noted the advantages of using cloud environments for software testing; particularly the ability to test applications in a full production environment.

While the pro-cloud people I met at TechEd don’t advocate dropping development into cloud computing without due diligence, they do think that companies should prepare for and do pilots in cloud environments today.

“It’s not a future technology. It’s a now technology,” said Margaret Lewis, AMD director of commercial ISV marketing. Indeed, she thinks cloud computing is a disruptive technology with the potential to help the economy recover. She foresees the emergence of a bevy of boutique cloud providers for various vertical and horizontal markets. In this video, she explains why cloud preparation and usage should be on software companies’ agenda.

While Lewis sees cloud computing as a recession beater, others at TechEd said that the economy will hold up cloud adoption.

The recession has forced many companies to stall, scrap or not start development projects, moving what’s left to the cloud isn’t a compelling objective now. “They’re also waiting they don’t see cloud as operationally necessary or strategic competitively,” said Ariola. Also, he’s talked to quite a few companies that recently adopted virtualization to consolidate servers, particularly in their test/dev labs, and are happy with the results. They don’t feel an immediate need to do another move right now.

In my TechEd conversations, about a dozen people opined that cloud services aren’t mature or production-ready. Their views reminded me of my recent interview with Eugene Ciurana, director of systems infrastructure at LeapFrog Enterprises, a large U.S. educational toy company, in which he warned that cloud service-level agreements aren’t up to par.

Cloud providers have to work out some thorny issues before scores of development teams get on board, Ariola said. In his work in the field, Ariola has heard many ISVs express concerns about cloud security. Those fears may be well-founded, according to this week’s Forrester Research report citing problems early cloud adopters have had with customer privacy protection.

Ariola thinks dev/test could be a killer app for cloud computing at some point, but right now “it’s not on most application developers radar.” He likened the cloud’s clout today to that of service-oriented architectures (SOA) in its early days. “This is a major change, and it won’t take place overnight.”

Yes, the cloud adoption pros and cons debate will continue for a while. Watch this blog, as well as SearchSoftwareQuality.com and SearchCloudComputing.com, for more information. Meanwhile, check out the news and views in these recent articles and videos:

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