Cloud Computing Reconsidered (Part 1)

6/13/2013 10:44:24 AM

Where we’re at & where we’re headed

Years after the cloud computing hype machine first revved its engine, there’s still some confusion and dissention among interested parties as to what “cloud computing” exactly means. What there isn’t much confusion or dissention about is that we are still in cloud computing’s early days. Still, various surveys, research, and other data suggest that cloud computing adoption rates have grown steadily in recent years to impressive levels. Also impressive is the percentage of companies reportedly planning to adopt cloud-based services in the future relative to the number of companies indicating no such plans. So, just how far has cloud computing come in the last five years or so? What does the future hold for cloud computing? Read on.

Where we’re at

Amy Larsen DeCarlo, principal analyst, security and data center services, for Current Analysis (www.currentanalysis.com), says there’s a growing awareness of cloud computing and cloud services from the executive level on down, though “we’ve sort of gone through the hype and the backlash.”

“In some ways,” she says, “it’s still very early days in terms of deployments, especially if you’re talking about infrastructure as a service.” Work still remains in specifically pinpointing what “constitutes a cloud,” she adds, as some services that aren’t really cloud services have been rebadged as such.

There’s a growing awareness of cloud computing and cloud services from the executive level on down

There’s a growing awareness of cloud computing and cloud services from the executive level on down

In addition, complications still exist from a technical standpoint concerning deployments and “the concept of moving into an environment where you have the ability to move work-loads between and among different clouds. Who will play a brokering role? Who has the capability to ensure workloads are migrated efficiently, and if there’s an appropriate degree of security and stability?”

Positively, businesses have done considerable work in determining if on-demand computing or storage can fit into their environments and in trying to devise enterprise-wide cloud strategies, she says. The industry has made good progress, and “in some areas that progress has been pretty extraordinary.” In other areas, though, there’s a long way to go.

Between 2010 and 2011, Info-Tech Research Group reported an increase in SaaS (software as a service), IaaS (infrastructure as a service), and PaaS (platform as a service) adoption. A 2012 survey indicated a roughly 75% increase in companies that had deployed some type of solution, according to John Sloan, lead research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group (www.infotech.com). That’s up from about a 16% increase in 2010 and 28% increase in 2011. Approximately 40% of respondents were in the exploration phase, he says, and less than 20% said they had no interest in the cloud at all.

Chris Wolf, Gartner (www.gartner.com) research vice president, says numerous Gartner clients are using SaaS and IaaS offerings, and there’s increased interest in PaaS. That said, “there are also many organizations taking a wait-and-see approach,” he says. “Oftentimes, concerns over regulatory compliance, security, and cost are factors that cause organizations to delay cloud adoption decisions.” Still, he says, the cloud has made a significant impact, touching nearly every organization regardless of whether it’s even using public cloud resources. For example, Wolf says, “organizations are now commonly bench-marked by their business units against providers such as Amazon,” something that leads to greater pressure to improve efficiencies and lower costs. As a result, “cloud computing is a win for the business, regardless of their rate of adoption,” he says.

SaaS vs. IaaS

SaaS has topped IaaS and PaaS in interest level due primarily to its longer legacy

SaaS has topped IaaS and PaaS in interest level due primarily to its longer legacy

Traditionally, Sloan says, SaaS has topped IaaS and PaaS in interest level due primarily to its longer legacy. Between 2010 and 2012, however, IaaS drew much closer, he says, growing by 200% in terms of deployment. IaaS has benefited recently from a growth of server consolidation and virtualization inside enterprises and an increased interest in hybrid cloud approaches that combine agile internal IT infrastructures with moving some infrastructure to external service providers, he says. “The number of IaaS providers has really sort of exploded,” Sloan says. He also attributes numerous local and regional service providers virtualizing their infrastructures and creating IaaS offerings as a factor.

Numerous organizations, says DeCarlo, have used SaaS as a re-placement or adjunct to existing applications, including messaging and collaboration. Wolf says SaaS is well-suited for commodity business services that require little to no customization, such as HR systems and CRM. IaaS, meanwhile, has proven a good option for startups, R&D, and temporary projects that have a set timeframe and where long-term investments don’t make sense. Retail organizations, for example, typically have busy seasons for which they can leverage IaaS to run services and then scale back as demand decreases, Wolf says.

Integrated HR Systems

Integrated HR Systems

Sloan cites the cloud’s “agility and elasticity” and “pay-as-you-go, metered aspect” as one of its most compelling traits for businesses. Any business launching a new project, he says, faces the initial hurdle of determining how much resources to buy and provision, and if the project succeeds, how much more to buy. Conversely, if the project fails there’s a question of what to do with the purchased capacity. “When you look at [the project] from the cloud economics, those questions go away,” Sloan says. Business-wise, “what’s attractive about the cloud is the getting up fast in terms of capital cost,” he says.

Sloan advises organizations to consider total costs over time. Typically, he says, when charting out the total accumulative costs of an on-premise, non-cloud approach vs. a cloud approach, costs start off quite a distance apart. “The cloud is almost zero at the start, and the non-cloud will have a considerable capital investment. But over time, those two lines start to con-verge,” he says.

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