Is the enterprise ready for cloud computing? It's an issue that's constantly debated at industry conferences and the focus of articles in InternetNews.com and other IT-oriented websites.
While cloud vendors tout the basic value proposition of moving IT infrastructure like applications and storage to the cloud, CIOs and IT managers worry about security issues and not having the same level of control that traditional on-premises data centers provide.
For these reasons and others, so-called private clouds that operate behind the firewall have been more readily adopted by enterprise customers. The debate these days is how ready for enterprise prime time are public cloud services from companies like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Salesforce (NYSE: CRM).
Now a new study by Gomez, a leading Web performance measurement firm, indicates many big companies already rely on these public cloud computing services without even realizing it.
"The cloud is being adopted by the biggest, stodgiest companies out there, whether they know it or not," Imad Mouline, CTO of Gomez, the Web Performance division of CompuWare (NASDAQ: CPWR), told InternetNews.com.
Mouline said he was "stunned" by the results of a recent analysis of Web transactions across 3,000 companies Gomez monitors, which the firm said includes many of the world's biggest companies. The analysis looked at 42,000 unique Web user transactions (search, data entry or product purchase) in a single day.
The surprise in the results was that 19 percent of these website transactions included at least one element hosted by Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service, and most of the websites using these cloud elements were based in the United States.
Mouline concedes that these sites aren't using Amazon to host their primary service -- in fact, many probably aren't even aware of the Amazon connection which comes in the form of ad networks, analytics, video news feeds and other services that third parties use on the sites.
"It may not be the core content, the main event a customer goes to the site for, but it could very well be supporting material that is critical to the business," said Mouline. "And if that ad network or some other element doesn't perform, the page may not load properly."
Measuring the cloud's impact
Mouline said there's not necessarily anything wrong with the fact that these public cloud services are in the mix, but there's an advantage in knowing when they are because it makes it easier to identify performance issues.
"The customer at the website doesn't make a distinction between your website and a third-party service operating there so you need to keep a vigilant eye on the performance of your application," he said. And that means measuring how it performs for the end-user because public clouds are "opaque from a performance perspective. There's no way to tell how they run," he added.
It's also worth noting that Gomez didn't measure to what extent other popular cloud services, like Google Analytics and Microsoft Azure, we're being used by these sites, which would have grown the percentage higher than 19 percent.
In general, Mouline said cloud services can be a boon to big transactional sites.
"The cloud provides companies amazing opportunities to lower costs, only pay for what you use and even improve your performance substantially at no additional costs with the right techniques," he said.
"I think what companies should take away from these results is that they're already using the cloud in many ways, so don't be afraid," he added.