Another area that is gaining more and more attention these days is "Cloud computing" and I guess the largest issue I have is around its scope and definition. Many appear to offer hosted services and this is now renamed as Cloud computing, even outsourcing, managed services, Software as a service (SAAS) fall under this new branding. Is that all it is, a simple rebranding to allow all remotely hosted services to have a new home?
As with all new paradigm shifts the best evidence that it'll be widely adopted and accepted is by looking at the user community for this. At this week's Westminster eForum one of the speakers, Rik Ferguson
, senior security adviser at security firm Trend Micro told us that the criminal fraternity are the largest group of adopters. Well I guess if we look back to look forward, we'll see that this was the case for the early adopters of the internet (pornography being the biggest financial winner). Well Rik also highlighted that "We already see customers of Google
, customers of Amazon
, who are criminals
and who use those services, among others, to run command-and-control services for botnets, to launch spam campaigns and to host phishing websites. They see the power, the scalability, the availability and, for them, the anonymity that is possible through cloud services and they are using it to its fullest extent."
Well the good news is that both large and small organisations will benefit from the Cloud, enabling smaller companies to automate, scale up and down depending on the market conditions whilst keeping overheads well managed. Large organisations can also reduce overheads, move into new or changing business areas quickly without being held back by in-house technology restraints. However I think that now, more than ever, process becomes king. Knowing your business services processes and IT services processes are in place, ownerships of responsibilities are understood become the key to success when the ownership of the infrastructure (including operating systems, software and applications) are left to someone who is not a part of your business. It appears to me that we are entering into the realms of treating IT as a utility, just like Electricity, gas etc. We need it to be there, we need to know the costs of utilisation, but the providers do not need to know what we run on it. This makes me think about the capacity planning and availability issues. We in the UK certainly know that the Electric providers monitor the utilisation and have to prepare for odd events like the ½ time during a football and rugby match as viewers go and put the kettle on for tea. The utility suppliers need to understand their market, its dynamics and influences, however odd, to ensure all the customers get the resources they need, when they need it without interruption. Can "the cloud" handle this now or in the future?
Who's working on the cloud right now? Well Amazon, Google, Sun, IBM etc, but some surprising companies are entering the market utilising spare capacity from their traditional business. Salesforce.com now offers Force.com to other business to host applications on. BMC software being a recent case in point. So keep your head in the cloud and watch how things develop, in particular the process issues of dual ownership and the end to end automation, but keep your feet on the ground to ensure you protect your business and understanding the current and potential risks.
The space between the cloud (hosted infrastructure (including apps)) and the end users would be the area that needs focus. Can that be called "fresh air"?