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Microsoft Cloud Goes All Out

If anything is going to derail the cloud-computing train, it'll be cloud computing itself.

Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite -- the cloud versions of Exchange, SharePoint and other tools that Microsoft itself hosts -- went out for a couple of hours on Monday. A couple of hours might not sound like a big deal, but it's a pretty long time to be without e-mail or SharePoint access. And, more to the point, two hours would be a virtual eternity if a truly critical system -- something like an ERP application or suite -- were involved.

Of course, this shouldn't be that big of a deal because this stuff happens all the time. But that's precisely the problem: This stuff happens all the time. Data-center outages, some lasting hours, are still common enough that many companies are hesitant to move anything to the cloud except some extraneous or non-critical applications. As long as that's the case, the cloud won't reach its full potential as a revolutionary model for IT.

We know, too, that on-premises systems go down all the time as well. But in that case, a big enough company can get a partner or an internal IT department started on fixing it. When cloud apps go down, all companies can do is sit on their hands (or scream into the phone) and wait for their providers to make everything OK again.

Many Microsoft partners' role in cloud computing is still up in the air (ahem, so to speak). But Microsoft has pledged many times to be "all in" for the cloud, so it's coming to (and from) Redmond whether partners are prepared for it or not. These outages, though, remain the proverbial elephant in the room for partners looking to sell the cloud to their customers. And there's not much that partners who don't host applications themselves can do about them.

In that sense, many partners are a lot like customers when it comes to cloud computing -- when something goes wrong, they have to wait around for somebody else to fix it just as the customer does. Frustrating? Sure. Discouraging to potential clients? Undoubtedly. Avoidable? Apparently not. So, what's a partner to do when the system goes down and somebody else has to fix it? Wait, we suppose, and wonder whether cloud computing will ever become reliable enough to erase doubts about it.

What's your take on reliability in the cloud? Do you trust cloud-based applications? Do you have any horror stories about the cloud? Tell them at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 25, 2010 at 11:56 AM