How flexible are cloud based services?


March 18, 2009 by James Smith

I have been thinking about hosted services, more to the point how would you move cloud based services to another provider?

Let us assume that you are looking at using hosted, cloud based, services to run all or part of your business.   I am certainly reading more about people, well companies that are doing it so they must have considered the implications. I am interested to find out how much consideration has been put into the impact of doing so.

Take some obvious services: e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, instant messaging, calendar and address book and ask ourselves how you move to another service provider and maintain business continuity (that is transfer the data).   The issues I can see here are that each one provides these in a bespoke manner, for example data created within the applications and contact information is not easily transferable documents may be in an open format but is transferable?) and business may have used available APIs to enhance the basic service being provided.

Assuming all services were equal, how would you move all your data from Google to Microsoft Live?

Surely standards are required here – they may exist, I just haven’t found them – in order for customers to take full advantage, to ‘shop around’. The customer is faced with a problem – What is the best time to adopt a service?  Choose too soon and the service could be bettered, leave it too late they miss the opportunity to realise expected benefits. Worse they may even find added value from another provider and cannot take advantage of it.

Some service providers – The Sun Cloud – are approaching this by providing basic services and then giving access to them through an API (under the Creative Commons “Attribution” license) so services can be developed, promoting competition.   This is fine for services developed using their API but still does not address the broader issue of cloud based service migration.

So understanding if, when and how to adopt cloud based services remains a problem.   I feel there will be more to come from the main players, and no doubt some from left field.


One thought on “How flexible are cloud based services?

  1. “Assuming all services were equal, how would you move all your data from Google to Microsoft Live?”

    Shudder. I imagine moving from one hosted application service to another would be a nightmare, and I’d be interested to know if the likes of The Guardian and the Telegraph have a back-out plan, or if they’re just assuming that Google will never kill (or significantly alter) Docs.

    Hosted servers (such as the SunCloud and Amazon EC2) are a different matter though, ‘cos you’re running and controlling your own OS and apps on their infrastructure.

    So I was wondering if someone would start using the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) as a standard format which you could move around and deploy to other cloud suppliers. I don’t know if anyone else does support them yet, but this Register story (“Ubuntu promises DIY Amazon cloud”) is promising.

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