Cloud computing has in many ways become a household name. We hear about applications living in the “cloud” on a regular basis. Cloud computing does offer a lot of benefit to businesses looking to offload the enormous amounts of data they generate and the expensive hardware to maintain that data. However, cloud computing may not be the super solution that everyone seems to be suggesting.
Obviously, the cloud provides a lot of benefit to a business. The ability to purchase computing power in units that represent disk storage, CPU cycles and RAM is revolutionary. For decades businesses have been shouldering the cost of maintaining computing infrastructure that goes unused “just in case”. The amount of money that large companies can potentially save by moving data into the cloud is tremendous.
Additionally, cloud computing provides a transparent interface to highly available server clusters. Companies buy the units of computing that they need and they do not have to worry about any of the underlying details. The cloud provider provisions their system to give the customer what they need, when and importantly where they need it. The details of redundancy, fail over and spare capacity are dealt with by the cloud provider where economies of scale make it far more affordable than it could ever be for a single business.
I mentioned the issue of where they need it being a big deal. Before cloud computing it was not unusual for spare hardware to be sitting idle in one data center while another was over burdened. The cloud eliminates this by eliminating the artificial boundaries created by data centers. As our applications move to the cloud, they are wherever we need them. Traveling your Europe? No problem. Your data is available in the cloud. In many ways, cloud computing is the first step towards ubiquitous computing.
The benefits of cloud computing are obvious. So why aren’t more companies selling their data centers and moving to the cloud? In one word: control. Many companies have data that if it were lost or worse stolen, they would incur huge liabilities. Very few companies are yet willing to trust the future of their company on a cloud vendor. When Microsoft’s cloud failed and T-Mobile’s Sidekick customers lost data, business owners saw it as a warning against rushing into the cloud. Companies want more assurances that their data is safe and they want more control over their data in the cloud.
What does this mean for cloud computing? In my opinion, it just means that we will see some slower adoption. The smartphone and mobile market is really driving cloud computing currently. As smartphones and mobile browsers continue to grow, I believe we will see more cloud applications. I also believe that businesses see the value of cloud computing and are trying to figure out how to profitably build their own clouds. This would give them control and likely still reduce costs but perhaps not as dramatically. I also believe as mobile applications increase in popularity, businesses will wade into the cloud to meet their customers.
Cloud computing in many ways is one of the most exciting developments in IT and computing. It brings us so much closer to the promise of ubiquitous computing. Businesses will naturally resist it due to the potential risks but I believe that cloud computing has already gained too much momentum driven by mobile applications. Eventually companies will be forced into the cloud because that is where their customers are.
What do you say? Is cloud computing living up to its promise? Why or why not?
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