Google's announcement to offer cloud-based storage is in many respects an exciting development but it also illuminates the lock-in issue and why many an enterprise is reticent about adopting cloud computing.
We heard one of the clearest discussions on the issue today at the Webvisions conference in Portland by two senior engineers from Yahoo! and Facebook.
Google announced this week that it is offering its own storage service. It will compete directly with services from companies such as Amazon.
But the ability to transfer data between cloud services is pretty much nonexistent. It's in most part due to the lack of reciprocal or peering agreements between services.
Vint Cerf says it is much like 1973. We have no standards for moving data around. The vendors need to start working together so customers may easily move information between services. Until then, the market will remain reticent about using cloud computing services.
As Tom Hughes-Croucher of Yahoo! and Carlos Bueno of Facebook explained, the issues comes down to latency and metering. What's needed are peering agreements, compatibility; portability and better infrastructure.
The two compare cloud computing to the earliest days of mail delivery when a network did not exist to get letters from one location to another. From the need to deliver mail came peering in the form of reciprocal agreements and flat rates. Mail began to be charged by weight. Address standards emerged. Enveloped and stamps standards allowed for better portability and the emergence of trains and steamships meant an improvement in infrastructure.
Today, we need cloud peering in the form of reciprocal agreements and flat rates. Compatibility means open API's and formats. Portability is about standard virtual machines and images. And better infrastructure is needed to reduce inter-cloud latency.
It's not tremendously complicated. Peering agreements can be relatively simple. Peering should be simplified as most data centers are clustered in specific geographic regions. Hughes-Croucher and Bueno point to the effects on carriers when SMS messages could freely flow between the networks. SMS message volume increased anywhere from 250% to 900% in the span of a short six months.
The lock-in issue is a major reason why many enterprise are reticent about adopting cloud computing.
Google will most likely do very well with its storage service. But we can only imagine what effects may occur if we remove the lock-in barriers that we now have in place.