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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."

About the Author

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.

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