Google outage fails to shake Aussie confidence in cloud computing

Late last week, Google suffered a highly-publicised and widespread outage that affected most of their products, and while this heightens caution around the use of cloud computing in the enterprise, Australian CIOs believe adoption won’t be compromised.

Interim CIO of Challenger Financial Services Group, Greg Baster, said the trend towards cloud computing for enterprises won’t be threatened, as a number of organisations already run significant parts of their operation on the cloud to great advantage.

Google reported that 14 per cent of Google users experienced slow service or service interruptions as a result of the May 14 crash.

A full outage spread throughout the hosted Google Apps products, including Gmail, Google Maps and Google Reader.

Senior vice president of operations at Google Urs Hoelzle said that a system error directed some of Google’s Web traffic through Asia, causing the interruptions.

CIO at Sydney-based logistics company Dematic, Allan Davies, doesn’t believe the Google outage will affect cloud adoption but says these high-profile outages don’t instill a lot of confidence in CIOs who are preparing to make a commitment.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt in a lot of CIOs minds that there are issues that cloud computing is relatively new, and a lot of us are sitting back and paying a lot of attention and interest in where the cloud’s going,” Davies said.

A recent CIO Executive Council survey showed the cloud is poised to drive the next wave of technology innovation.

Amongst the 173 CIOs surveyed, 45 per cent highlighted security as their greatest concern surrounding cloud adoption and almost a quarter (24 per cent) of CIOs addressed concern over performance issues in the cloud.

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Challenger’s Baster points out that many organisations already rely on outsourced operation of their systems and that along with the cloud computing, both are not immune to outages.

“The critical focus for enterprises should be to understand and lock-down underlying service level agreements and review the control framework used by the third-party supplying the software as a service, including disaster recovery processes,” Baster said.

Professor Anna Liu of Smart Services CRC says CIOs should not only just set up Service Level Agreements with cloud platform vendors.

“They should also acquire capabilities that allow them to monitor, assess and even predict cloud platform behaviours whenever they have applications to be hosted by a cloud platform vendor, so that they are in a better position to mitigate risks arising from such an outage,” Lui said.

Speaking at the CeBit conference and exhibition in Sydney last week, Google’s product management director Matthew Glotzbach touted cloud reliability, and the advantage for enterprises when third-party provider’s outages attract global press attention.

“The reality is because of the nature of the cloud, services are built to be redundant,” Glotzbach said.

“So you actually tend to see significantly higher statistical reliability [in third-party cloud providers] than in traditional long-term solutions.”

Baster agrees that the public scrutiny helps, but as to whether cloud computing is more reliable can only be answered with real-world experience over time.

“Incidents like that of Google almost invariably causes the supplier to review control processes and so improve overall service levels,” Baster said.

Lui urges CIOs to think strategically about what portion of their IT assets are suited towards the cloud.

“There are many benefits of cloud computing to gain, such as greater efficiencies and lower cost and greater innovation opportunities,” Lui said.

“It would be a pity to miss out on those benefits.”

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