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Experts: Clouds Need Flexibility

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Clouds in the sky are elastic: They grow and shrink in capacity and are fluid, not fixed in size. So it should be with the clouds on the Internet, a panel argued here at the GigaOm Structure 09 conference on cloud computing.

Still, there needs to be some standards of uniformity. The Internet would never have grown had there been multiple definitions of what constitutes the TCP/IP protocol, noted Yousef Khalidi, a distinguished engineer with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and part of the company's Azure cloud computing team.

"At some point, you want some scale and uniformity," he said during a panel hosted by GigaOm writer Stacey Higginbotham. "Those are the value propositions of the clouds. There's a slippery slope beyond which we're just doing custom networks."

"Unless you have elasticity, it's not a cloud," he added. "At the same time, we do need decent-size scale clouds. It we make this too Balkanized, it won't make it to distribution."

Joseph Tobolski, director of cloud computing at Accenture, agreed that the industry needs to avoid too much specialization, but added he's not in favor of "the one-size-fits-all," which dictates that one type of cloud is used by everyone, regardless of need.

Lew Tucker, vice president and CTO of cloud computing at Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), added, "You want some uniformity at the hardware level and network. We've always seen that betting against general-purpose computing is a bad idea."

But he added the caveat that there's no rush to the clouds on the part of customers.

"I don't think a lot of enterprise apps are anywhere near ready for the cloud," Tucker said. "They aren't appreciated -- they are humming along great as is. We have to wait for the next refresh cycle. Ask us again in a few years about the customer view on this."

There's also the issue of comfort levels on the part of executives who are not familiar with the new model of cloud computing.

"It takes a while for CIOs to become comfortable running something off someone else's gear," Accenture's Tobolski said. "We need to educate people because they think the cloud is insecure. Licensing is also something requiring education."