Is cloud computing just more nebulous hype from IT vendors or does it really have some substance? By Keith Jones.
If you pick up any tech magazine or read any technology news website you’ll see reams of content about “the cloud”.
But is cloud computing really “the next big thing”? Is there enough substance to differentiate it from existing hosted offerings to warrant the hype? Is cloud a natural evolution in the IT services market, driven by hosted offerings, virtualisation, multi-tenancy, pay-per-use licensing and increasing bandwidth speeds, or is it something genuinely new that we really need to know about?
The pace of change in the technology world is accelerating. We are mobilising: there are more smartphones connected to the Internet than laptops and PCs. Network speeds are increasing — they have gone up 170 000 times since 1990, but will increase 3m-fold in the next 10 years. Processing power is exploding — supercomputers matched the power of a human brain in 2011; laptops will achieve this by 2020, and by 2030 non-biological intelligence will exceed biological intelligence on the planet. And the amount of data being generated is exploding. It took us from inception of the IT era until now to create an exabyte (1bn gigabytes) of data. We now create an exabyte every five days.
The numbers are amazing, but what they really show us is the rate at which technology infrastructure is commoditising.
The business drivers for an IT solution are in reducing the “cost to serve”. The new budget we have in any business is time. We are time constrained and, to offer real value, any solution needs to give us time back. We need to do more with less, to drive up productivity. Cloud, in itself, does not do this.
What it does offer us is scalability, flexibility, redundancy, pay-per-use licencing and reduced support costs. But it is offering a value-added service at the commodity end of the market.
All the things the cloud offers are the services I would expect from my hosting partner or my in house IT team. From a business point of view, cloud does the plain vanilla stuff well, but delivering on this has never really been a problem for IT and the vanilla stuff is not going to revolutionise business.
Data integration, user adoption, customisation, interpretation, privacy issues and the Holy Grail, productivity, remain the core issues. Adding another technology stack that is completely out of my control to my already complex environment may not be the right choice and may provide few of the promised rewards.
The cost to serve from a back-end technology point of view was already tumbling before the cloud hype, and continues to do so. Cloud does not have a monopoly on this.
So, what has cloud really brought us? The answer is more of the same: cloud is the natural progression of hosting and virtualisation and may or may not offer you significant business value. It sounds like business as usual.
Cloud computing has all the hallmarks of being overhyped. All it is is a natural evolution in the technical market that’s been hyped up to look like a wave. The fact that cloud has been named, fairly arbitrarily, after the picture we have been using to depict the Web since its inception shows how much original thinking went into defining this “new” sector.
- Keith Jones is director of strategic business development at Unison