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Simple-Talk Editor (mainly for .NET), Beta wrangler, and Mad Scientist. I'm running experiments to make technical publishing better for developers. You can find me on Google+ or on twitter.

Weather Control

Published 14 January 2011 8:59 am

When the age of SaaS dawned, and the first wisps of the cloud started to condense above our heads, much hype was made of the fact that you could put your “stuff” in the cloud, and then never have to worry about it again.

Sadly, that’s only half true. You don’t have to worry about the nitty-gritty details of provisioning hardware, scaling your applications, or managing hardware. Lovely. Unfortunately, for reasons best described as ‘Compliance’, ‘Security’, and ‘future-proofing’ (to name just a few), companies can’t just fire-&-forget their data and applications into the cloud, and let the magic black box in the sky take care of everything.

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility
- Uncle Ben

Now, as the general understanding of the technical & legal challenges inherent in cloud computing matures, customers are looking for more control over how their bit of the cloud behaves, and interacts with more earthly infrastructure. A few SaaS providers are already offering management services / portals, and Microsoft is hot on their heels.

This should come as no great surprise, as Big Enterprise is a notorious control-freak, and dedicated SysAdmins and DBAs were never going to just stand aside and give someone else carte blanche to screw around with their systems. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned that “someone else” is, they’re not standing next to you, so they cannot 100% appreciate or cater for your specific needs.

As with so many things, this has become a balancing act. While the core of what identifies The Cloud is not going to change, if users take too much control over the fine-grained operation of their SaaS setup, then they’re going to start impacting how well their providers can perform. They’ll also be putting quite a dent in the “You don’t have to worry about this stuff” tagline. And that’s just assuming that they know what they’re doing.

Where’s the line? You need to retain a certain amount of control (if only to make sure your cloud-based and on-premises environments play nicely together), but push that control too far and you may as well host everything locally. Everyone’s situation is obviously going to be different, but I wonder if there’s any kind of consensus on what the bare minimum of control is?

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