March 09, 2011, 1:36 PM — There's an interesting dichotomy in the early data IDC is collecting about how secure IT execs at big companies feel about cloud computing.
The ones who use public clouds from Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft or others -- almost regardless of the size of the service provider -- are pretty confident in the security and reliability of the cloud, according to IDC security analyst Phil Hochmuth.
Those who are building, using or planning private clouds -- which are far more secure and offer many more ways for customers to control performance and capacity allocation -- are a lot more nervous about security and performance.
They're secretive, uncertain about the reliability of the technology, the skills of their staffs and a little paranoid about the risk to their data, application performance and return on the investment.
Private clouds, in this context, means they're building a layer of software onto their data centers that allow them to shift application workloads around, reallocate memory, storage, compute power and other IT resources to the workloads that need the most oomph at the moment, and consolidate data, security and management in one "place."
Private clouds that are housed by external service providers operate just like traditional outsourcing or hosting services, except the systems are built out as cloud servers rather than traditional hosted servers. Applications still run on virtual machines and can be controlled or moved around in the same way they can with clouds inside the data center. All a company's virtual machines run on physical servers devoted only to it, however. Network links between the external private cloud and internal data centers are either dedicated lines or heavily encrypted VPN tunnels.
Public cloud services run VMs from several companies on a single physical machine, and share networking bandwidth on the way in and out of the facility.
Given how much less secure a public cloud appears to be, the dichotomy between the two groups of execs is odd, though it echoes reactions I've heard interviewing CIOs using or building clouds as well.