Thoughts on Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is an emerging buzzword in the IT industry.  The concept is not really all that new, but it is getting lots of play right now in the media.  And rightly so…because cloud computing (or whatever it ends up being called) is the future of the IT industry. 

Why you ask?  There are a number of reasons.  But primary in my mind is that it offers businesses the promise of business agility.   Agility enables the business to respond quickly to customer requests for new products and services.  It also allows businesses to partner more quickly to reach new markets faster.  And it also allows businesses to quickly change in the face of competition.  Here are some basic reasons why the cloud computing concept will take off.

  • Economics: Clouds will require a very small up front investment.  Usage will be be billed by consumption.  The resulting reduction in Total Cost of Ownership will allow businesses to pursue improvements in operational efficiency and productivity.
  • Risk Management:  In some cases, there will be no fixed time commitment.  This will allow businesses to try many new services faster.  This reduces big failure risks and allows clients to be innovative.
  • Time to Market:  Businesses will be able to adopt new services quickly for pilot usages and then scale quickly to a global scale.
  • Information Society:  Cloud computing will provide business executives value-added information generated by the collection and analysis of massive amounts of unstructured data.
  • Ubiquitous Society:  The cloud treats all devices the same making the cloud accessible via a heterogeneous set of devices (sensors, kiosks, PC, phone, telematics..)

In today's fast world, new competitors, with innovative business models (e.g. Google, Amazon, etc.), seem to be able to rapidly change their business.  To match these types of competitors, businesses must have a business architecture and an IT infrastructure that is flexible enough to respond quickly to all opportunities and threats.  The emerging cloud computing concept enables businesses to become more agile because it offers the ability to get to market quickly, and with a lower capital expense.  It also assures that as demand increases, resources can be added incrementally, without the need for major architecture changes.

From an IT standpoint, business agility implies the ability to rapidly build and configure tailored solutions which span internal and external systems.  Cloud computing can enable the development of applications in real-time and then also enables them to be quickly deployed globally to any device from sensors to mobile device to PCs.  Once developed, Line of Business executives need those applications to execute in real-time, scaling to meet the needs of the business.   Follow on generations of applications must be able to handle increasingly higher amounts of data as the user base grows.  Once running, applications in the cloud offer non stop operation.  Users aren't burdened by HW and SW upgrades.  

In the future, there will be all sorts of new types of services enabled because of computing clouds.  Services we can''t even imagine right now.  The fact is that the more applications and services that are deployed in the cloud, the more opportunities there are to leverage services provided by others in the same or other clouds.

The biggest hurdle to that looms as a show stopper to this trend is security, privacy, & risk Management issues.  These issues will be HUGE to overcome.  The security issues will be very complex to solve (on par with issues like solving world peace and hunger).  I certainly don't know all the issues, nor do I have a solution to propose. I will leave that to the experts in security.  I do believe that we will solve the issues and businesses will learn to trust running our systems in the ;clouds'.   Remember the initial fear you had of buying things online with your credit card?  I bet you do that now with much less fear.  Perhaps you don't even think about it.

So in my mind, Cloud Computing is a disruptive force in our industry.  For more information, check out my previous post "A Primer on Cloud Computing".