So we’ve heard it again and again, terms like network-centric processing, on-demand applications, mobile computing, and everyone’s favorite buzzwords; cloud computing and scalability.
Amid the technological gobbledygook being sprouted left and right by tech whizs, IT experts, and corporate suits who wish to appear “informed”, just what is cloud computing in the IT industry today? And what has been it’s impact on businesses so far?
The State of Cloud Computing from thestateofcloudcomputing.com on YouTube
Competition spurs innovation
Since cloud computing needs lowers PC requirements and storage space and costs less than the license for a standalone software, it’s a very attractive choice for SMEs, specially startups, with a smaller capital base to start with.
Many firms “have not moved significantly to cloud computing yet,” says Cassio Dreyfuss at technology consultancy Gartner. But he believes that “more dynamic” industries, “where business models change very fast, where competition is very hard… will move more quickly.”
At present, Gartner estimates the cloud computing market to be worth around US$2.4 billion, shooting up to $8.1 billion by 2013.
However, don’t get your bootstraps on just yet: like any birthing industry, the cloud computing pushers acknowledge there are still several hurdles to overcome.
For one, cheap cloud computing demands that tasks be standardized. Contrast this with traditional applications that contain many little-used features, just waiting for those specialized needs. As a “bare-bones” package, customizing a cloud service costs extra.
Companies on a tight budget may have to review their business processes. However, Venda’s James Cronin says this does not mean a standard look and feel. “I challenge you to spot that our customers’ websites run on the same platform. Plus most Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers roll-out newly developed features to other customers as well.
Usability is another thorny issue. Many users are firmly entrenched with their choice of software, thanks to years of use. As such, most are reluctant to switch to plainer online applications. Rentokil’s Bryan Kinsella counters that his migration team received few complaints.
Connectivity is another worry. The City of Los Angeles wants to move 34,000 employees to Google Apps, but there are complaints about speed and reliability – problems that may be rooted more in the city’s internal network than Google’s service.
But what if you go offline? Well, most SaaS providers offer resilient offline solutions. Microsoft – a late-comer to the cloud computing party – likes to point out that it offers proven offline applications like Microsoft Office that integrate with its new suite of online applications.