The IT industry has embraced cloud computing in 2010. Businesses started pilot deployments, while the major suppliers opened new green datacentres around the world to support data sovereignty.
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Here Computer Weekly looks back on the top 10 cloud computing stories of the year.
While economy of scale is being touted as a key source of savings for cloud providers, Salesforce.com has a minimal number of servers in just a few co-location cages. It provides services without server virtualisation, an approach that is contrary to the often-repeated mantra of virtualisation being a prerequisite for cloud or infrastructure sharing. Salesforce.com infrastructure is shared and very few would deny that the way in which it delivers services is cloud-based.
What is Microsoft's position in the cloud marketplace? Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (below) explains how its Azure cloud platform and Microsoft Live makes it well-placed to offer businesses a migration path into the cloud since its hybrid approach means users can buy and deploy in-house or use products like Office Live in the cloud. But can Microsoft make the economics work?
After a year of seeing deep cuts to infrastructure and operations (I&O) budgets, businesses are returning to a growth agenda. Most I&O executives say this is routine. As the vice-president of infrastructure at a large manufacturer summed it up: "I&O is always in a recession. We always have to do more with less. Did the global recession hurt us? I'm sure it did, but we didn't notice any unusual cuts in spending."
Of all the types of cloud service, the cloud application market is the most mature. Salesforce.com, for instance, has more than 54,000 subscribers, making it the most successful cloud application provider with its pay per use customer relationship management (CRM) application. But not every business wants to replace a core application with one operated in the cloud.
CRM is relatively easy to migrate to a cloud offering, but enterprise resource planning (ERP) and production systems are not as straightforward. Businesses have two choices: either use IT infrastructure in the cloud or build applications based on a cloud platform.
"Do you fear the auditor more or the attacker?" asks Peter Bassill, chief information security officer at gambling giant Gala Coral Group. It is a key question for IT leaders thinking of dabbling in on-demand computing provision through the cloud. For Bassill, there is only one answer, particularly for firms operating in highly regulated sectors: "A lot of companies fear the auditor more. If you hold data internally, you can show the auditor your controls, but the cloud makes such demonstrations more difficult."
Much of the coverage of on-demand products focuses on a few high-profile IT companies and it is easy to think the market is limited to them. This is simply not true; many managed hosting providers are now providing IaaS and PaaS as an alternative to their traditional dedicated infrastructure hosting services. Add to this the number of suppliers now offering full or partial SaaS and the aggregated market these organisations represent is easily as big as that of their higher profile counterparts.
Choosing a supplier will depend on the type of platform required, the service levels on offer and the guarantees that can be provided on security and governance.
The term "cloud" has attached itself to practically every product or service offering computers and storage. The enormous popularity of the cloud is not driven by the coolness of technology but by the clear and obvious benefits that cloud computing gives its users, which is revolutionising the way IT services are being procured and used. The phrases "private cloud" and "public cloud" have become commonplace, but when you think about the benefits of a real cloud computing environment, the hype around a private cloud doesn't measure up. Werner Vogels (below), CTO of Amazon web services explains why.
Last September Corby Borough Council went live with an online portal application that runs on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) infrastructure. The online portal, MyCorby, enables the town's 53,000 residents to access a range of information and council services, such as council tax, benefits, housing, waste collection and leisure services, at their convenience and around the clock. Corby chose cloud computing because it offered the flexibility to support growing demand from the town's ballooning population, which is expected to double by 2030.
As security issues around cloud-based systems begin to be addressed, concerns about how to make applications talk to each other have begun to move to the front of CIOs' minds, according to research. A survey by PA Consulting Group and Harvey Nash earlier this year suggests that just under 50% of 2,500 business polled were not planning on entering the cloud in 2010 due to reasons ranging from level of cloud maturity (mentioned by 13% of respondents) to security (21%). Six months later, PA revisited some of the initial findings of the original research in conversations with clients and found that businesses now perceive cloud as less of a hype and more as a viable option.
Law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse is about to use cloud computing to improve the way it delivers IT services to lawyers. But in addition to the usual technical issues, there are some legal aspects that require careful consideration. The legal industry handles highly confidential information on behalf of clients, and the time-critical nature of the business requires extremely high service levels. How suitable is its IT for cloud computing?