Don’t Underestimate a Small Start in Cloud Computing

Although many predict that cloud computing will forever alter the economics and strategic direction of corporate IT, it is likely that the impact of the cloud will continue to be largely from small projects. Some users and analysts say that these small projects, which do not project complex, enterprise-class, computing-on-demand services, are what to look out for.

David Tapper, outsourcing and offshoring analyst for IDC says, “What we’re seeing is a lot of companies using Google (GOOG) Apps, Salesforce and other SaaS apps, and sometimes platform-as-a-service providers, to support specific applications. A lot of those services are aimed at consumers, but they’re just as relevant in business environments, and they’re starting to make it obvious that a lot of IT functions are generic enough that you don’t need to build them yourself.” New enterprise offerings from Microsoft, such as Microsoft BPOS, have also shown up on the scene with powerful SaaS features to offer businesses.

According to Tapper, the largest representation of mini-cloud computing is small- and mid-sized businesses using commercial versions of Google Mail, Google Apps and similar ad hoc or low-cost cloud-based applications. With that said, larger companies are doing the exact same thing. “Large companies will have users whose data are confidential or who need certain functions, but for most of them, Google Apps is secure enough. We do hear about some very large cloud contracts, so there is serious work going on. They’re not the rule though,” says Tapper.

First Steps into the Cloud

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 71 percent of the “technology stakeholders and critics” believe that most people will do their work from a range of computing devices using Internet-basd applications as their primary tools by 2020.

Respondents were picked from technology and analyst companies for their technical savvy and as a whole believe cloud computing will dominate information transactions by the end of the decade. The June report states that cloud computing will be adopted because of its ability to provide new functions quickly, cheaply and from anywhere the user wishes to work.

Chris Wolf, analyst at Gartner, Inc.’s Burton Group, thinks that while this isn’t unreasonable, it may be a little too optimistic. Wolf says that even fairly large companies sometimes use commercial versions of Google Mail or instant messaging, but it is a different story when it comes to applications requiring more fine tuning, porting, communications middleware or other heavy work to run on public clouds, or data that has to be protected and documented.

Says Wolf, “We see a lot of things going to clouds that aren’t particularly sensitive–training workloads, dev and test environments, SaaS apps; we’re starting to hear complaints about things that fall outside of IT completely, like rogue projects on cloud services. Until there are some standards for security and compliance, most enterprises will continue to move pretty slowly putting critical workloads in those environments. Right now all the security providers are rolling their own and it’s up to the security auditors to say if you’re in compliance with whatever rules govern that data.”

Small, focused projects using cloud technologies are becoming more common, in addition to the use of commercial cloud-based services, says Tapper.

For example, Beth Israel Deaconnes Hospital in Boston elevated a set of VMware (VMW) physical and virtual servers into a cloud-like environment to create an interface to its patient-records and accounting systems, enabling hundreds of IT-starved physician offices to link up with the use of just one browser.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art started using workgroup-on-demand computing systems from CloudSoft Corp. last year. This allowed the museum to create online workspaces for short-term projects that would otherwise have required real or virtual servers and storage on-site.

Cloud computing will make it clear to both IT and business management that some IT functions are just generic when they’re homegrown as when rented, in about a decade or so. Says Tapper, “Productivity apps are the same for the people at the top as the people at the bottom. Why buy it and make IT spend 80 percent of its time maintaining essentially generic technology?” Contact Nubifer.com to learn more…

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