Thursday, October 11, 2012

The inevitability of cloud computing

Thanks to a pointer from Joe McKendrick over at Forbes, this morning I had a chance to read a study looking at 2012 cloud adoption patterns (mostly at larger organizations) put together by Navint Partners. The bottom line? "While there’s still much debate over the Cloud’s security, the industry consensus is one of inevitability."

The study looked at both private and public cloud deployments although it's a bit hard to tease apart conclusions as to when they relate to on-premise versus hosted offerings--or a hybrid combination of the two. I've come to somewhat wistfully think back to a 2009 CNET Blog Network piece I wrote about cloud terminology and sorta wish that we, as an industry, had come up with a better way to unpack the different concepts and approaches that come together under the "cloud computing" umbrella. But I digress.

Among the study's findings was that 80 percent of respondents recognized cloud technology as giving their organizations a competitive advantage.

The report goes on to note that:

Cloud’s scalable nature and modern approach to data and infrastructure pushes organizations into a more competitive position. While most CIOs recognize the Cloud has existed in some form for a decade, SaaS solutions are, in many industries, still novel. [Navint's Robert] Summers explained that while larger corporations have been using private clouds for a while, small‐to‐mid sized businesses can dramatically scale their operations and outpace competitors if some processes are relegated to a SaaS or Cloud model.

This is consistent with what we've been seeing at Red Hat with early cloud deployments. The ultimate goal from a CxO's perspective is to use cloud computing in order to make technology a competitive differentiator rather than a keep-the-lights-on cost. This goal only becomes more important ads technology is increasingly core to how more and more businesses operate. 

What form cloud takes will depend on the company. For smaller organizations, SaaS will likely play an outsized role.

But, as noted by Gartner's Eric Knipp in a recent blog post "While I don’t debate that 'the business' will have more 'packages' to choose from (loosely referring to packages as both traditional deployed solutions and cloud-sourced SaaS), I also believe that enterprises will be developing more applications themselves than ever before." He goes on to describe why he believes that a golden age of enterprise application development is upon up, partly because of the rise of Platform-as-a-Service. I'll discuss Knipp's thesis in more detail in a future post.

On the downside, the study also found that:

survey respondents still ranked security as the top concern (above compliance and integrity), and affirmed data security and privacy as the number one barrier to both public and private cloud adoption. Despite highly advanced security and fraud countermeasures employed by Cloud vendors, CIOs and other executives regard security guarantees and redundancy policies with guarded pessimism. Practically, this fear has had the effect that many companies have yet to move “mission‐critical” applications to the cloud.

 I guess I'm not really surprised by this finding either. One wonders to what degree this is about perceptions, rather than reality. But, at some level, the distinction isn't that important if it's what potential customers believe.

The good news from my perspective is that I see a lot of good work happening out in the industry to bring structure to security (and compliance/governance/regulatory/etc.) discussions and really bringing together the tools to have discussions that transcend naive safe/not-safe dichotomies. I've got an upcoming piece that looks into the good stuff the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is doing in this space.

Finally, it's clear that cloud computing isn't going to be about private or public.

36% of survey participants believe that budget dollars for public cloud computing will increase by as
much as twenty percent by 2014, and 46% expect budgets for private cloud computing to jump by more than twenty percent over the same period.  

Which is why we're focused on open and hybrid at Red Hat.

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