This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2011 issue of InfoTECH SPOTLIGHT.
As we head into the 2011, the most significant trend from 2011 is likely to hold that spot for the foreseeable future – Cloud Computing.
The basic reason is simple: the cloud model highlights the flexibility, scalability, and cost savings that have driven technology innovation and adoption over the past decade (most significantly, over the past few years, with a struggling economy).
In reality, the concept isn’t new. It is an evolution of the hosted model many VoIP providers have been promoting for years as a means for reducing complexity in business networks. Now, however, businesses are moving much more than voice communications onto the proverbial cloud, including storage, security, email, and critical software applications, looking to take advantage of the growth of high bandwidth, low latency, resilient IP networks.
Leveraging software (SaaS), platforms (PaaS), or even infrastructure (IaaS) solutions delivered via the cloud model also allows IT staff to focus on their core tasks, leaving the routing, yet time consuming infrastructure management to the cloud service providers.
Mimecast, for instance, a SaaS-based unified email management provider, has absolved IT departments from having to manage the peripheral elements of email – such as archiving, security, spam and virus control, policy control, and encryption – while allowing IT groups to retain control over their email servers.
“We have tried to move all those point solutions to the cloud,” explains Mimecast’s Orlando Scott-Cowley. “The advantage is that most of what IT does can continue and businesses enjoy cost benefits of not having to deploy solutions for these capabilities on their own networks.”
Still despite the benefits of the migrating to a cloud model, much of the market is still unsure, and many businesses that have traditionally retained all their technology in-house still view it with a degree of reservation, particularly with regards to security. But, with major companies, like Microsoft (News - Alert) and IBM, making serious moves into the cloud computing space, validation is advancing quickly. The truth is, many businesses are already using cloud services in some way.
For its part, Microsoft doesn’t launch into new spaces quietly, as evidenced by its launch of OCS in 2007 and, more recently, its upgraded Unified Communications (News - Alert) platform, Lync. Now, it also isn’t keeping quiet about promoting its cloud services. It has already been promoting its Office 365 product – essentially its version of Google (News - Alert) Docs, which allowing easy sharing of documents, but using a product set with which business users are intimately familiar.
And more recently, if you’ve turned on your television, you have more than likely seen countless “To the Cloud” advertisements, promoting Microsoft’s Windows Live services, offering a host of cloud-based tools and social media services.
“The reality of the cloud platform is that it really enables us to take the resources that we have and apply them to the next set of very critical applications and opportunities that all of our businesses have,” says Tony Scott, Microsoft’s Chief Information Officer.
In addition to the increased collaboration capabilities, cloud-based services really offer businesses an opportunity to spend less time and capital managing hardware and infrastructure, and more time managing the information and data that is core to their business operations. There is also the side benefit that IT staff tend to be much happier in their jobs, not having to perform as much maintenance and troubleshooting, because they have their cloud services providers to handle those duties.
“The cloud allows IT to focus on their business instead of just fixing problems,” says Vishal Sharma
senior director, Cloud Computing at NaviSite. “The benefit of the cloud is the ability to standardize services and develop service catalogs – it’s really changing how IT is delivered.”
Incidentally, NaviSite leverages Mimecast’s cloud email capabilities, largely because of its archiving capabilities, and another vendor TMC had a chance to meet with in Boston in December, Isabella Products (News - Alert), likewise, makes use of NaviSite’s cloud services. The point? This evolving model not only provides access to services and applications, but opens the door for a new generation of products by allowing entrepreneurial vendors to leverage others’ capabilities to drive their own innovation.
It’s that ability to benefit from the innovation of others that will continue to drive the cloud market. Instead of having to become experts in every aspect of IT, businesses will be able to develop and deliver their own core services, while capitalizing on services others already offer.
“It’s a very exciting time for the cloud,” concludes Smith-Cowley. “In six to twelve months, it will become much more accepted and we will see companies more aggressive in leveraging the cloud.”