To be, or not to be on a Cloud?

There are several resources, online and offline, dedicated exclusively to explain what is cloud computing. Videos from GoogleTechTalks and aggregated information on cloud community websites such as CloudTweaks do a great job at helping anyone get up to speed with the cloud computing concept, its trends, and its latest developments.

In this blog entry I discuss the drivers of cloud computing innovation, the benefits of cloud, the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) factors associated with cloud and, finally, enumerate the factors that will fuel the growth of cloud, leaving you to decide whether cloud is for you and your company.

Although, cloud computing may refer to software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), collectively referred to as everything-as-a-service (XaaS), in my view, it is primarily fueled by innovations in hardware infrastructure. Hundreds or, even thousands, of connected servers scattered across various server farms (Google Platform) around the world have resulted in virtually unlimited computing power, giving rise to services to rent out the unused computing power to the companies that are in need but cannot afford on site solutions. To such companies, cloud computing can afford platform, infrastructure, and software at 1/3 the total cost of ownership (TCO) as compared to on site solutions with the ability to scale up or down at lightning speeds, higher reliability in terms of up time, low maintenance overhead and accessibility at all places, all times, and to all individuals. This could result in speeding innovation cycles at fast growing firms, managing seasonality without incurring extraneous costs, reducing time-to-market in order to stay competitive, increasing overall employee productivity, and lowering overall IT cost and complexity.

However, cloud is not all silvery. The fear of losing critical data, the uncertainty around the data ownership and portability, and doubt created by diverse regulatory environment are working in tandem to hinder the adoption of cloud computing. The solutions and services offered in cloud will need stronger security features, and transparent ownership guidelines in order to mitigate data privacy and confidentiality concerns. The governments around the world may even have to work together to establish regulations around cloud and data in cloud to ensure that they are not in direct conflict with each other. Continuous innovations in cloud such as private cloud will play a crucial role in mitigating a lot of these security and privacy concerns.

Despite these concerns, I believe that within next 5 years majority, if not all, of our professional administrative computing will be on a cloud and all anyone will need is access to a smart device to connect to a cloud to carry out these activities. On the product side, cloud will expand to enable a diverse set of technologies and emerging business models that are not feasible today. Enterprise collaboration will be one of the most pivotal functions served by cloud. It will enhance collaboration beyond productivity tools to include cross-cultural collaboration and even automated content management for its users. Some of this is a reality even today; consider Google Apps’ integrated translation bots. At service providers’ end, the companies with large server farms, such as Google and networking equipment manufacturers such as Cisco will emerge as the market leaders because of their asset base and capabilities to deliver services (solutions and applications) optimized specifically for their hardware. At the buyers’ end, the fragmented nature may not be able to exert as much influence on its service providers but that will be solved by the formation of associations to administer and dictate terms on cloud and its service offerings.

Finally, I, along with Cisco, believe that adoption in cloud is a question of when and not if. The initial adoption will be motivated by need to be cost effective and agile, and enhancing IT’s responsiveness to fast changing business needs. Cloud will handsomely empower IT to enable faster business transformation and help its company to stay competitive and innovative. Now, it is up to you decision maker – to be or not to be on a cloud.

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