Cloud Computing – the next evolution or another dot com?

March 16, 2009 Appirio

Balakrishna Narasimhan

Right now “Cloud Computing” inspires more emotional and conflicting responses from IT consumers and providers than any other. Amongst one of the fastest rising search terms on Google, its most often accompanied by the words “what is.” Goldman Sachs tells us that “software continues its unstoppable shift from on-premise to on-demand delivery” – while panels of technology visionaries evaluate if it’s today’s dot com.

Everyone seems to recognize that there’s a fundamental shift that’s taking place in the industry. However, there’s still a lot of confusion about what “cloud computing” actually is and why it’s relevant to customers now. Some want a future based on the past, others contend that there must be a clean break. The reason for this confusion is because everyone in the IT industry has recognized that words do matter and will define the paradigms under which they operate. Thus we end up with many trying to redefine “cloud computing” to support their strengths.

Company What they say What they really mean
IBM “Private” clouds offer many of the same benefits as “public” clouds but are managed within the organization. These types of clouds are not burdened by network bandwidth and availability issues or potential security exposures that may be associated with public clouds. Private clouds can offer the provider and user greater control, security and resilience. [More ] Cloud computing is a better datacenter
HP Cloud research is focused on delivering an application and computing end-state of Everything-as-a-Service: billions of users, accessing millions of services, through thousands of service providers, over millions of servers, processing exabytes of data, delivered through terabytes of network traffic. [More ] Cloud computing means more hardware and networking
Oracle “We’ve redefined ‘cloud computing’ to include everything we currently do. So it has already achieved dominance in the industry. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing.” [More ] Cloud computing is nothing new
SAP “the integration of on-site and off-site software on the vendor’s “loosely coupled, asynchronous” SOA platform” [More Cloud computing is a better Enterprise SOA
Microsoft “The future is a combination of local software and Internet services interacting with one another. Software makes services better and services make software better. And by bringing together the best of both worlds, we maximize choice, flexibility and capabilities for our customers. We describe this evolutionary path in our industry as Software + Services.” [More ] Cloud computing is desktop software, enhanced with internet-delivered data and access
Google “It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing – they should be in a ‘cloud’ somewhere. And that if you have the right kind of browser or the right kind of access, it doesn’t matter whether you have a PC or a Mac or a mobile phone or a BlackBerry or what have you – or new devices still to be developed – you can get access to the cloud” [More ] Cloud computing is internet-enabled apps on a massively scaleable platform
Salesforce “Cloud computing offers almost unlimited computing power and collaboration at a massive scale. With Force.com Platform-as-Service, we are providing the necessary building blocks to make cloud computing real for the enterprise.” [More ] Cloud computing is SaaS + PaaS
Amazon “cloud computing is that you can have all the resources that you want, could be storage, compute, networking, with an infinite amount of capacity, available to you to use on the internet, the only thing you need to use it is a credit card” [More ] Cloud computing is raw computing power, storage and networking as a service

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. Let’s first look at some of the key elements of cloud computing in terms of the benefits to customers, since that’s ultimately where the rubber hits the road, especially in these economic conditions.

  1. Focus on the Business Process Layer of the Stack – Stop worrying about provisioning/managing/maintaining hardware, networking and middleware
  2. Pay for what you use, scale up and down smoothly – Purchase computing and application (process) capacity in granular increments. Convert capital expenditures to operating expenses – this allows improvements to business processes even in today’s capital constrained environment
  3. Benefit from multi tenancy – Get the latest features and enhancements without expensive upgrades – build applications that get better over time without incremental effort from you
  4. Speed up development time – make agile development a reality with rapid prototyping and iteration (because of #3)
  5. Access applications and data from anywhere on any device – make the virtual office a reality
  6. Mash together data from different sources to create new business processes – Because cloud platforms are multi-tenant and meant to prevent breakage via upgrades, it is possible to create stable integrations which lead to new categories of business applications, e.g., combine social graph data with lead information or share real-time data with partners – create more flexible and innovative processes

There are three technical enablers that are critical to realize the benefits above:

  • Shared infrastructure and middleware on massively scaleable shared infrastructure
  • A multi-tenant application platform
  • Open, standards-based APIs

Here at Appirio, we are dedicated to helping companies do more with cloud computing. That’s why we partner with companies like Salesforce, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, who are truly delivering on the promise of cloud computing . We help our clients steer clear of near-cloud concepts like “private cloud” and “software + service” because we believe they mitigate or eliminate many of the benefits of cloud computing.

Having served over 120 enterprises and having worked with Salesforce and Google on some of their largest accounts (e.g., Japan Post, Avago, Genetech), it is clear to us that a meaningful definition of cloud computing can drive incredible value for customers. In the coming months we look forward to providing more concrete examples of how the cloud can drive real value for large enterprises, even through these turbulent times.

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