Q&A: Nicholas Carr on 'the big switch' to cloud computing

Author says cloud approach is reliable enough for many apps, but warns about vendor lock-in

Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr

Clearly -- and this is something that CIOs have gotten used to this decade, for better or for worse -- cost is going to continue to be a big factor. I think the judicious use of the cloud can help in that [regard], because it does allow you to avoid capital investments, which can be very hard to make a case for now.

Running counter to that, companies tend to get very conservative in periods of economic tumult, and even experimenting with new models such as cloud computing may begin to be difficult. But compared to a few years ago, there are more options now for getting more IT capability at the same or a lower price. Companies shouldn't be afraid to explore those options and experiment with them.

One of the technologies that CIOs have explored in recent years to help drive cost savings is server and storage virtualization. But for large companies that have made big investments in virtualization, might that lead them away from making a wholesale switchover to cloud computing, at least in the short term?

I don't think any big companies are going to make a wholesale switchover to the cloud, because I don't think the cloud is ready for all the things that companies do internally in IT.

But I think virtualizing your own IT infrastructure is going to make it easier in the long run to pull in more and more capabilities from the cloud, or begin to use the cloud as basically an extension of your own data center -- so that every time you get an upsurge in demand for a particular application, you're not faced with the need to go out and buy a lot of new servers. You can use the cloud as kind of an add-on and expand to it.

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