The Future is Cloudy & Bright - Part I

The Future of Cloud Computing for Business

It seems like every decade or so a new technology trend emerges in telecom that morphs into "the next big thing." In the 70's it was the migration of voice traffic from analog to digital switching. In the 80's it was the advent of the Advanced Intelligent Network that was going to embed monster distributed intelligence into the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). In the 90's it was the multi-media promise of ATM networks to the desktop. In 2000 it was the rapid growth in IP networking and the explosion of the Internet into mainstream life, and in 2010 it's the new convergence brought about by the fusion of IT and network technology into what's come to be known as cloud computing.

Like all the previous generations of hot technologies that preceded it, cloud computing will evolve through the hype, contradictory vendor definitions, buzz words, and market noise and begin solving pressing, everyday business problems in a more cost-effective and scalable way than previous technologies. Here's why:

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, where resources are independent of geographic location, are service oriented, and virtualized. By virtualizing the physical computing infrastructure through such solutions as VMWare's Hypervisor or MicroSoft's Azure platform, significant improvements in server utilization are achievable which drive down cost and improve application performance and resiliency. Cloud computing further abstracts the underlying IT and network infrastructure by providing dynamic user control of the virtualized environment including management and resource provisioning.

The principle benefit of cloud computing is to significantly reduce capital expenses for on-premises computing power and hardware. The computing service, or cloud, can be private (eg owned and operated by the user), or public (eg owned and operated by a hosting company for many users), or a hybrid model, or both.

Why Cloud Based Solutions are Getting Traction

Businesses of all sizes are discovering that they have key applications that can be delivered better, faster, or cheaper in a cloud environment. Small businesses can benefit by avoiding investments in capital intensive IT infrastructures, such as Data Centers, and instead use a pay-as-you-go approach to obtain scalable, high-power computing resources available through hosted Cloud providers. Larger organizations are also realizing operating efficiencies by shifting investments away from expensive physical IT assets such as servers and licenses and improving business performance by enabling sophisticated applications to be delivered through the Cloud.

Cloud computing allows small business to rapidly, cost-effectively prototype new applications, speed development of innovative services, rapidly produce new product designs, and remotely store of critical business and customer data. For large or enterprise businesses, either private or public, the ability to move mission-critical applications into the cloud offers vastly improved IT economics relative to traditional on-premise deployments while simultaneously increasing business continuity and disaster resiliency. Additionally, the ultra-distributed nature of the cloud enables new productivity tools and applications, such as enterprise collaboration and multi-partner extranets that have to power to drive real revenue growth and competitive advantage for the business.

The business migration to cloud computing, like the migration paths from previous generations of technologies, won't be instant or smooth. The marketplace, perhaps more than standard-setting bodies like the NIST or even powerful vendors like Cisco or Microsoft, will eventually identify the best cloud computing solutions, operating characteristics, and best-in-class management practices. Lower operating costs, massively scalable computing power, and the geographical independence of applications and data from traditional brick-and-mortar corporate boundaries is a potent mix of forces that have the power to eventually transform much of the way the world does business over the coming decade.