Security Concerns May Slow Cloud Computing Adoption
Microsoft may have reaffirmed its commitment to cloud computing with the launch
of its Windows Azure operating system at this week's Professional Developers
Conference (PDC), but overall business adoption of the cloud concept may be stymied,
in part, by security issues.
Speaking about his company's "Digital
Disruptions" report released this week, Computer Sciences Corp.'s Chief
Innovation Officer Lem Lasher said questions over data security will be a major
impediment to enterprise adoption of cloud computing.
"In time, IT can shift its focus and security can evolve," Lasher said.
"But until wide adoptions of 'datacenters in the sky' become a reality, there
will continue to be a need for functionally rich, actual, traditional PCs on
which people will hold data and perform all sorts of tasks across the businesses."
For this reason, the critical mass in the enterprise realm that Microsoft has
captured in the past -- and which it hopes to tap by moving enterprises from
the software-in-a-box OS to the Web -- may not be so easily moved. After all,
there is an independent security vendor ecosystem to consider.
For its part, Microsoft admitted Tuesday at PDC that many applications, including
third-party security programs stacked on its Azure Services Platform that exceed
their allocated storage or processing hours, could drop off because cloud computing
is designed to be a customized, utility-based computing service.
To that end, if businesses can't keep track of certain applications on a "floating"
OS (most security apps are designed to do their jobs invisibly), or if they
have to customize a system for the applications that are used most frequently,
it will also be difficult to track who is doing what. This is one of the dangers
inherent in sending data outside an enterprise firewall onto remote servers
-- which also happens to be the hallmark of cloud computing.
This is also problematic for enterprise IT auditing. Many companies across
various industries have rigid compliance
standards to meet, which means that harnessing, calling up and protecting data both
within and without company networks is a tall order.
Still, there are many benefits to cloud computing, such as mobile accessibility
for users and improved collaboration. And a survey
released this summer from Gartner suggests that the very nature of cloud computing
will create a plethora of snap-on security functionality possibilities with
the ability to quickly scale or change applications as needed.
In that vein, Lasher said, "There are great possibilities, but there is also
great risk. And until security and data issues are satisfactorily resolved,
there won't be full-scale adoption. We'll see a more hybrid world, in which
cloud computing will be used for certain types of applications, but it will
be very application-specific and will have to evolve with the concept."
Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.