The idea of delivering IT services over the Internet isn’t new, but attach the word ‘cloud’ to them and confusion reigns: There’s public cloud, private cloud, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service …

That isn’t stopping vendors from pushing their wares. At an IT conference in Toronto on Thursday some of the biggest names in technology were again pushing the concept.

But even some of the speakers at the iTech Summit who insisted there are obvious advantages to cloud computing admit there’s considerable haze in the air.

For example, in a keynote speech Strahan McCarten, Bell Canada’s director of product marketing or hosting and data centre services, said that “everyone can leverage cloud to improve their business.”

Cloud-based services drive down IT costs and improve service delivery, he said. Executives hope the cloud will help cut internal IT staff, McCarten acknowledged, but IT should see cloud as an opportunity to deliver better service to staff with core resources.

But in an interview he also agreed that some organizations that want to take advantage of infrastructure as a service offerings – where compute power can be bought on demand — aren’t prepared yet.

“Unless the company has a really strong developer group internally, who are familiar with some of the tools, it can be very confusing for a company that’s principally driven by IT operators, system administrators.”

Still, Bell is seeing enough demand for its infrastructure as a service offering that in the fall it will launch a new platform allowing customers to provision servers they rent on the fly.

In another session, Chris Pratt, IBM Canada’s strategic initiatives executive, called the cloud “one of the best things that ever happened to IT.” By that he meant it has enabled business executives to talk to IT about the easily understood attributes cloud computing brings to staff and customers, such as self-service and access anywhere.

But in an interview he admitted when he talks to customers the word ‘cloud’ brings out frustration as well as excitement.

“If I talk to an IT exec, the frustration is unrealistic expectations from the people above them: ‘They think I can do this on the cloud and they can have it by tomorrow afternoon,’” he gets told.

“When I talk to a business exec I hear frustration with how long things take to happen (in IT departments) and how inflexible they are. When I talk to the guys in tech support who have been there forever, by the time they’ve finished rolling their eyes….They think it (cloud) been oversold.”

And it has been, he agrees.

But, he emphasized, ‘cloud’ represents the convergence of the set of attributes a business wants and attributes that IT can deliver.


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