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Cloud computing: You pay your money, you make your choices

MIT’s Kirsch Auditorium was standing room only last night for a forum on cloud computing, part of the university’s Innovation Series for entrepreneurs, investors and patent attorneys. But there was a liberal sprinkling of technology types as well in the audience, including some upper-level IT folks trying to get an early read on what cloud might offer them.

The forum’s avowed purpose was to give a sense of what’s real now in the cloud and so it focused on the Amazon Web Services ecosystem. Several speakers spoke of “hundreds” of providers of value-added layers to the basic Amazon services, much in the form of middleware. When you peel back the layers of the onion, in many cases what you are renting has a high open source content. If enterprises have been slow to widely deploy free or freeish open source software internally, will they be quick to pay for it in the cloud just because someone has done the initial heavy lifting of configuration?

Other vendors have more novel models. Take Allurent, for example. They’ve distilled down many of the more desired features of e-commerce websites into a set of modules that run in the Amazon cloud. They do some design customization, but seemingly a lot of the time-and-money uncertainty inherent in the handoff from graphic design to software design that plagues so many Web projects has already been boiled out of the designs.

There’s also an accompanying content management system that your marketing department can use to manage sales, promotions, etc. The pages are hosted on Amazon but appear as part of your site and integrate with your e-commerce back end. My point isn’t to do a commercial for Allurent, but to point out that the cloud model creates some new ways of doing things that may well be an improvement over current ways.

Next week, VMware will shine a spotlight on the private and private/public hybrid cloud notions. This conference was more about the platform and application services that you will likely find coalescing in the cloud in the near future. If cloud flops, it won’t be for a lack of choices.

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