Without doubt, cloud computing is the future of the enterprise. But clouds come in many varieties – some light and fluffy, others dark and ominous – so the question for CIOs today is what kind of cloud is appropriate, and are there ways to ensure that today’s cloud does not become tomorrow’s storm?
According to IHS Technology, cloud spending is on pace to jump by more than a third over the next three years to $235 billion. Key drivers run the gamut from lower operating costs and more flexible data environments to support for advanced business applications like collaboration and Big Data analytics. As the market matures, then, organizations across multiple industries are likely to shed their concerns about security and management as they strive to turn IT infrastructure from a cost center to a competitive advantage.
Despite its rapid growth, the cloud is still in its infancy, says ZDNet’s Larry Barrett. And truth be told, the cost advantages of cloud over modernized on-premises infrastructure are not that great, yet. But with top providers like Google and Amazon engaged in a price-cutting war for storage and other services, the cost disparity will only widen as the market matures. Even organizations that opt to keep key data and applications in-house will do so using cloud-based local infrastructure, making it easier to allocate resources where they are needed and then integrate them with third-party systems if and when the situation warrants.
Still, industry trends should not drive any one organization’s decision to embrace the cloud. Rather, says UK IT consultant Dave Cartwright, some soul-searching is in order. Do security fears govern all your IT decisions? If so, you’re probably not ready for the cloud. The same goes for data reliability and availability, even though all three of these aspects are no better or worse in the cloud. On the other side of the coin, if you plan to scale up massive amounts of resources on the cloud, take a hard look at the numbers to see if it really is the less expensive option.
The very fact that we are still talking about deploying the cloud is an indication that much of the IT industry is still caught up in stateful, static architectural thinking, says Richie Etwaru, vice president of CRM provider Cegedim. The cloud is stateless and fluid, so it makes better sense to treat it as an action verb, like clouding. In this way, we can implement application and services automation, on-demand infrastructure and resource provisioning, and a host of other activities without the complexity and time constraints of traditional allocation and integration. In other words, the cloud becomes something you do rather than something you have.
If ever there was an example of a technology being all things to all people, however, it is the cloud. Now that entire data architectures can be defined and implemented in software, the enterprise has an unprecedented ability to create custom environments on the application or even the individual user level. Cloud infrastructure, then, is likely to become as diverse as today’s legacy environments, but with the added twist that it can be made and remade according to the needs of the moment.
In this vein, it is neither hype nor wishful thinking to say that the cloud is a complete reboot of longstanding enterprise infrastructure, and organizations across the board will have wide latitude to figure out the best way(s) to implement it for themselves.