Large scale cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM etc. have top notch systems, processes and people to deliver continuous availability. The capabilities and resources they bring forward are very hard to match by anyone even the largest enterprises.
However, everything fails at one time or another. Case in point, Japanese nuclear reactors were designed to withstand some serious calamities yet the they still failed in the most spectacular fashion adding to the misery of an already devastated population. Japanese people need our help; please donate if you can.
Cloud computing vendors are not immune to failure. And while occurrences are quite rare, the visibility is really great. Not "great" as in "very good" ... more like "really embarrassing". Today I was going to Reddit.com, one of my favorite social media destinations where I am typically expecting to see timely stories voted up by a very opinionated community. Here is what I saw instead:
Reddit uses Amazon cloud storage and it appears there was a hiccup in the cloud storage. Reddit wasn't going to take the blame (nor should they) so they are pointing the finger at their provider. They are not the first, nor are they the last. Dropbox, an incredibly useful free (to a point) cloud storage services also had an outage and they also fingered Amazon. However, they were very complementary to the support they received from AWS.
When these consumer oriented, startup-run sites fail nobody really suffers. They actually post very humorous "out of service" pages that are at times more fun than the site itself. Reddit had this video of an angry Toronto shopper (I've lived in Toronto for 30 years and never met one):
If you are working for a typical enterprise IT that does not have VC-funded sense of humour, you probably will not point a finger at Amazon and say "they broke it" ... at least not in public. That will be a career limiting move. On the plus side, you may be looking for a job at one of these startups with a more relaxed dress code and free lunch.
Humor aside, this actually illustrates one of the key impediments to cloud adoption. When it comes to IT decision making, having a "throat to choke" is a very important aspect. So what if cloud storage costs only 14 cents per GB per month? Do you have the cell phone number of an executive that you can dial when stuff brakes? When it comes to large IT organizations, CIOs have long standing relationships with their vendors. They have a leverage over these vendors and when time comes they are not afraid to excercise it. When dealing with a cloud provider in a self-service pay-as-you-go model, the leverage is gone. Sure you can buy a platinum support contract, get an SLA in place etc. It just is not the same. CIOs know it, and it scares them away from the cloud. Some will take the risk because savings are just so addictive. Others will say "nobody was ever fired for buying ... (insert your favorite vendor name here)".
It is ironic that self-service, pay as you go, pay only for what you use - the attributes that make cloud computing so attractive - are turning out to be the root causes that are hampering its adoption.