IBM significantly extended its cloud computing reach today with the general availability of SmartCloud Application Services, which is the company’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering.
As the distinction between different types of services in the cloud continues to blur, IBM is making the case that PaaS will not only become a dominant form of cloud computing, but also the one that offers the most potential value to the business. In fact, IBM expects cloud computing overall to be a $7 billion business for the company by 2015.
According Jim Comfort, IBM vice president of SmartCloud strategy, the primary goal for embracing the cloud should be to increase IT agility. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings allow organizations to reduce costs, but PaaS offerings provide higher levels of agility by relying on the service provider to hide the complexity of the IT environment. That means the customer can concentrate on building applications, versus worrying about how the underlying IT infrastructure is actually managed.
The biggest challenge right now, says Comfort, isn’t so much the technology as much as it is aligning processes between the customer and the provider of the cloud computing service. That often means having uncomfortable conversations about process standardization and automation, without which Comfort says there can be no cloud computing.
As more organizations come to realize that cloud computing delivered as a service is more about giving the business access to an agile IT platform than it is about cost containment, Comfort says adoption of cloud computing will accelerate. At the moment, however, most organizations are still testing and experimenting with cloud computing services that many IT leaders may perceive as simply being incompatible with the processes they currently use to support mission-critical applications. As a result, most of the applications running in the cloud today are utilitarian in nature, such as email or storage, or are productivity applications frequently aimed at mobile computing devices.
Ultimately, however, Frank Gens, chief analyst for International Data Corp., says that cloud computing will be a pillar for a next generation of innovation in the enterprise, especially once organizations get more comfortable mashing up data and processes in the cloud to drive new business opportunities.
But for that to happen more organizations are going to have to start worrying less about how cloud actually works in favor of building applications and services across multiple enterprises that are not practical to build in any other way.