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Stormy Weather for Azure, Blue Skies for Hadoop

If cloud computing in the enterprise were, well, a cloud, it would be forming in the distance, just coming over the horizon. Sure, some companies are making money with it and others are saving money by using it, but it's still an evolving model.

Two pieces of news this week showed the negative and positive potential of cloud computing. Let's start with the bad news, or at least with the negative-potential bit. Azure crashed late last week.

OK, we know -- it's still a work in progress, and cloud computing as a model is prone to outages. But this was a 22-hour outage, a disaster-level interruption in service, and it occurred just days before Azure was to be the star at this week's MIX conference in Las Vegas.

That won't do much for confidence in cloud computing, confidence that remains shaky in a lot of enterprises and even in many smaller businesses, as well. People like to be able to get to their stuff whenever they want it, which doesn't seem like an unreasonable request and is pretty much what we've been used to with client-server computing.

Of course, the outage makes both Microsoft and the cloud model look pretty bad, perhaps unfairly, no matter how early Azure is in its evolution. There will no doubt be some pressure on partners to reassure customers who've bought into or were thinking of buying into Microsoft's Software Plus Service plans that this sort of thing is unusual and is the result -- probably, since nobody seems to actually know yet -- of a fledgling platform hiccupping.

We at RCPU would not want to be in the role of providing that reassurance right now, frankly. And while we believe in cloud computing as a concept, we understand that it has its potential pitfalls. Inability to access, say, a critical ERP application for 22 hours could cripple some companies. That's why the cloud is still the horizon right now; companies might dip their toes into a cloud app here or there, but few are ready to dive into the model head-first. And that's OK -- smart, actually -- as long as partners and customers keep an open mind and remember that this stuff is still in development and could still end up being incredibly useful and reliable in lots of scenarios.

And then there's the other side of cloud computing, the cool stuff it produces. Here we come to the new baby of tech hype, Hadoop, which is now available in open source commercial form by a company called Cloudera. Companies like Google and Yahoo use Hadoop to mine massive amounts of data from the Internet and sort it, delivering targeted content and advertisements and the like. Now that capability is coming to enterprise datacenters in the form of a product that costs nothing. Read (a lot) more about it in the old gray lady herself, which could probably benefit from this technology.

The bad news for partners might be that since Cloudera plans to make its money off of services, add-ons and the like with Hadoop, it's hard to see a clear channel play right off the bat. But the cool news -- we won't call it "good" necessarily -- is that this thing sounds really powerful and should give companies the ability to actually make use of petabytes (but only if they want to be petted...) of information and build really useful apps in the cloud. We just hope partners can find a way to get a piece of this action. How that's going to work, we're not sure.

We're also not sure when, or if, cloud computing will feel as normal in the office as cubicle walls and water coolers, but we can see something on the horizon. Exactly what it's going to bring, we're not sure. But it's coming this way.

Where do you stand on the cloud model? Let us know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 03/18/2009 at 1:22 PM


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