Ahead in the cloud
Analyst Gartner has been banging the drum again for cloud computing. It defines cloud computing as "a style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided 'as a service' using Internet technologies to multiple external customers." The analyst believes cloud computing will be as influential as ebusiness and that it is benefitting from a perfect storm of converging trends. These include the increasing industrialization of information technology (IT), the commoditization and standardization of technology, virtualization, the rise of service-oriented architecture and the ubiquity of the Internet.
We've already seen small businesses targeted with cloud computing services, such as Amazon's Web Services, but cloud computing's cheerleaders believe that it represents a shift in how computing will be consumed in the future. No longer will companies have to manage their own services, they just buy them on tap like any other utility. Gartner believes that email will be the first major cloud computing-based application and predicts that the number of cloud-provisioned enterprise email seats will rise from 1% in 2007, to 20% in 2012. By this time, it claims that the very largest firms will be using cloud computing to consume email services.
Even companies reluctant to give up direct control of their computing can benefit from the concepts behind cloud computing. The power of cloud computing is that it allows companies to harness the joint power of many small computers, like virtualization on steroids. This can be then used to create a data centre out of clouds of computers with resources allocated on demand, something that IBM is attempting to do in the US with two academic institutions.