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Cloud Computing? I'll Take an Industrial-Strength Version

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Today, everyone acknowledges the power of cloud computing.

So, when companies hesitate to adopt the cloud, it's not because their executives don't understand how profoundly the technology can transform their operations. They realize that cloud computing can help provide broader access to apps and data to partners and customers, jump start a new business, or re-imagine product and service design.

No. The main reason cited by most companies is one of risk. Executives worry about the basic issue of security when deciding whether to use cloud computing to handle mission critical data or workloads.

Caution makes sense, especially when it comes to new innovations. But instead of continuing to question whether the cloud can handle mission-critical computing needs, it's time to realize that an industrial-strength cloud -- or one that allows organizations to focus on business innovation rather than continuing to worry about the reliability and safety of data -- is ready for primetime.

The right skills, tools and best practices now exist to make cloud computing secure, no matter the corporate demand. In fact, rather than a major inhibitor of adoption, security can be a critical enabler, making it possible for executives to stop losing sleep over data risks and focus on getting business done. The key is understanding that not all clouds are created equal.

As the cloud grew up, companies rightly came to expect more out of the technology. They want uncompromised security and as close to 100 percent uptime as possible so they can deliver for their customers, clients and employees. Yet, we've seen a string of recent and highly visible cloud outages and security breaches that make us wonder whether the cloud is up to the job.

When I'm talking to executives about cloud computing, they often worry about security and privacy policies, losing control over their data, having less visibility into cloud data centers, and having to deal with costly, embarrassing service interruptions.

The problem, though, isn't that the cloud is inherently unsafe. It's that a one-size-fits-all mentality holds sway in the industry right now. It's simply not possible for the off-the-shelf approach of many cloud offerings to meet the unique security demands of different applications, organizations and operations.

To unleash the full potential of cloud computing, organizations must have confidence in the new technology. To have confidence, corporations need to feel that they have choice and control over cloud adoption and the delivery models, configurations, risk levels and economic models.

These choices, such as public, private or hybrid cloud options, have to be integrated and interoperable so companies can move easily between the different options for different tasks, preventing a "balkanization" of a company's cloud strategy. These choices need to be backed by a portfolio of security options that include automation, security and management help for compliance requirements, prevention of unauthorized access, and defense using advanced security intelligence against the latest threats.

Security was one of the main reasons Exa Corp., a Japanese software maker, wasn't adopting cloud computing. But an integrated set of automation, security and management solutions enabled the company to create a secure, hybrid private cloud solution that combines proprietary and external data centers to lower costs and improve resiliency.

Once companies realize that security doesn't need to be an obstacle anymore, they can start exploiting the many solutions cloud provides to their advantage. Cloud computing can not only help a company realize cost savings, it can underpin broad innovation by providing the scale and flexibility needed to open new lines of business and even access entirely new industries.

But before companies can focus on the potential of the cloud, they need to have confidence in the underlying technology. It's time to reduce risk, restore trust and get back to business.

To learn more about IBM and cloud computing, click here.

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