It's the subject of much hype, but what does cloud computing actually mean? And, more importantly, what opportunities and benefits does the new model offer businesses?
Worldwide spending on cloud computing is expected to reach almost $150 billion by 2013, according to analyst firm Gartner. But what is cloud? In pure business terms, cloud is a flexible, scalable, pay-per-use model for the way IT services are delivered and consumed, typically through short-term contracts.
Through this pay-as-you-go cloud model, organisations can reallocate IT costs from capital expenditure to operating expenditure and achieve greater cost transparency; flex their IT capability to meet changing business demands; and so improve their agility and competitiveness.
There are three different types of cloud.
In cloud terminology, the term 'as a service' loosely describes the capability to use something over the internet on an as-needed basis. However the naming convention has been open to abuse: vendors will often append the 'as a service' tag to any new network-based product and service, but it doesn't always follow that those will be cloud or even 'cloud-ready'.
Here you can see an example of mapping and how vendors are moving from an 'as a product' to an 'as a service' model.
By David Smith, Darren Ratcliffe and Mark Poley, Fujitsu
CIOs and business leaders are united in their eagerness to gain the benefits of cloud computing. But while cloud services can be scaled up or down in a matter of hours, their actual establishment across the IT estate requires a considerable investment in time and effort – time that IT teams need to enable business advantage. The move to cloud computing could be a major distraction, that damages rather than enhance business, if not carefully managed.
Setting up a cloud service for a single use is beguilingly simple. Working out how and where cloud will be used across the whole IT estate is more challenging. The adoption road map for each part of an enterprise's application suite, middleware and infrastructure, as well as for the data centres and system management centres, adds up to a complex plan that looks more like 3D chess.
The shrewd way to maximise asset value and ROI is to change over from IT ownership to cloud at the end of each IT asset's life. But each IT asset reaches the end of its life at a different date, and each asset has a dependency on other IT assets. Perhaps 4D chess would be a better analogy.