Arguably, 2011 has been the year of the cloud. Almost every supplier has repositioned its products to make them Cloud-ready. Oracle finally got its Fusion platform strategy out; SAP’s Business ByDesign finally began making waves in the SME space while Microsoft introduced Office365, its cloud-based rival to Google Docs.
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Given all the hype puffing-up cloud computing, it is surprising user-adoption has been relatively slow. Users are concerned about the viability of the suppliers – remember ASPs (Application Service Providers)? Amazon, Blackberry and Salesforce.com all had outages in 2011, which puts a question-mark on the reliability of the cloud.
Further, as the year progressed, some CIOs began assessing data jurisdiction, particularly in relation to the US Patriot Act. Businesses are converting their existing data centres to private clouds, to make internal IT more like an on-demand business service. Some organisations, like Sabre, are even replicating cloud-based apps marketplaces, to reap the benefits of cloud, on their own platforms.
The early stirrings of cloud computing are beginning to take place, with mixed results. Totally contained cloud services, such as salesforce.com, Concur and Transversal show how full-service functions held in the cloud can facilitate a business's processes without costly hardware - but is this going to be the case going forward?
Forrester has identified a new architecture called the user experience network (uXn) which connects users to services that are relevant to the moment, aggregated at the point of use, and originate from multiple locations.
Security is widely cited as the single biggest reason for not embracing cloud computing, but security is really made up of several aspects, says Bob Tarzey, analyst and director at Quocirca.
"There is securing the cloud, using the cloud securely, and using the cloud to deliver security," he said.
A survey of 200 IT directors within large enterprise organisations has found that IT directors are worried about the potential management headaches of cloud computing.
The Vanson Bourne survey commissioned by 2e2 reported that 71% of IT directors are concerned about the potential management complexity cloud services will bring.
CIOs should be aware of four main risks when contracting for cloud services, says analyst firm Gartner. Cloud service providers should also address these structural shortcomings to achieve wider acceptance of their standard contracts, according to Frank Ridder, research vice-president at Gartner. "CIOs and sourcing executives have a duty to understand key areas of risk for their organisations," he said.
The jump to cloud (and the news skills it will require) has even been likened to the new skills shift that programmers have had to embrace to cope with the new world of mobile apps. Have organisations and cloud solutions providers fully grasped what the new skill sets will be? No, not yet. Everyone is talking about the technology, but there has been a fundamental shift in the way the cloud is viewed and used and we haven't begun to feel the ripples yet.
Cloud computing is frequently likened to utility services such as electricity, water or gas. If all that's being consumed is compute cycles or storage space, then this analogy can be useful to understanding what's on offer, writes Dale Vile, managing director of analyst Freeform Dynamics.
On September 5th Dutch Minister Ivo Opstelten (Security and Justice) responded to questions relating to US cloud companies storing Duth data and the impact of the US Patriot Act. The minister's response has major implications on data jurisdication.
Defence contractor BAe Systems ditched plans to adopt Microsoft Office365, the online version of the Microsoft Suite. The supplier could not guarantee the company's data would not leave Europe, in spite of operating a data centre in Dublin.
Sabre, the global distribution system for reserving hotels, airlines, cruise ships, rail tickets and car hire, has taken the concept of the app store and applied in to its own travel market.