infoTECH Feature

June 30, 2009

Even IT People Don't Know What Cloud Computing Is: Report

Version One reportedly announced that its latest market research survey regarding cloud computing is ready, and its main finding is that more than 40 percent of senior IT professionals have confessed that they do not have a clue about the real meaning and definition of cloud computing.
One of the main reasons is that there are so many differing opinions and definitions floating around like whimsical clouds that even CIOs are having a tough time catching one definition and pinning it down.
“It is clear from the survey results that there are a number of contrasting views as to what cloud computing really is, which is hardly surprising in light of the many different cloud computing definitions in the public arena,” said Julian Buck, general manager of Version One. “For instance, Wikipedia defines it as ‘Internet-based computing’ while Gartner (News - Alert) refers to it ‘as a service’ using Internet technologies. IT expert, John Willis, writing in his cloud blog says that ‘virtualisation is the secret sauce of a cloud’ and provides different levels of cloud computing. With so many definitions circulating, clarity is urgently needed.”
On a lighter note, the situation reminds me of a familiar musical lilt from the epic film, “The Sound of Music.” Does anyone out there remember, “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you solve a problem like....? When I’m with .... I’m confused, out of focus and bemused, and I’ll never know exactly where I am....”? (It’s a good thing there is no such thing as “moon computing,” or else the lyrics would start with, “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”
Meanwhile, Version One, a company dealing in document management software, claims that they carried out the research with 60 senior IT professionals, including IT directors and managers, across a range of U.K. public and private sector organizations, and comes very close on the heels of their earlier survey, which showed that more than 66 percent of U.K. senior finance professionals, including finance directors and managers, are confused about cloud computing definitions and uses.
“If organizations are going to embrace cloud computing in the future it’s essential that a single, simplified explanation is adopted by everyone,” said Buck. “Failure to cut through the confusion could result in organizations rejecting this technology and missing out on the benefits it provides.”
The company says the research revealed that 17 percent, of the nearly 60 percent that claim to know what cloud computing is, understand cloud computing to be internet based computing, while 11 percent believe it is a combination of internet based computing, software as a service (SAAS), software on demand, an outsourced or managed service and a hosted software service, and the balance respondents understand cloud computing to be a mixture of the all of the above ingredients.

More interesting facts emerged from the clouded scenario: 5 percent of respondents say they use it a lot; 19 percent use it sparingly; 47 percent say their company does not use it; 29 percent are unaware whether their organization uses it or not; 2 percent are certain that their company is going to invest in cloud computing within the next twelve months; 30 percent are undecided about possible investments; 47 percent just do not know if there will any investment at all; and, 23 percent declared that their companies will be absolutely not invest in cloud computing.
“Although this is only a small survey of IT professionals, the results are nonetheless very alarming, especially as IT professionals are the very people that need to understand cloud computing so that they can explain its benefits to management,” Buck said.
Cloud technology leverages of the computing prowess of tens of thousands of servers and millions of computers all across the globe to deliver solutions and data that need not reside in the end users own desktop computer or mobile computing device. It can handle rapidly increasing simultaneous data inputs and queries without any perceptible alteration in performance, gives the impression that the most of the applications reside in the end users’ systems when these actually reside elsewhere and function over the Internet, and is available as a service. Some agencies offer free unlimited usage and others charge as per consumption. Either way, the cost of buying, learning and maintaining software and data storage is completely neutralized.
Version One says that there are significant benefits to be derived from cloud computing, such as the reduction in overheads and paper, ease of use, cost savings and the ability to provide collaborative tools for teaching and learning.
Another example is that of information technology start-up companies facing easier initiation and break-in periods than before since new cloud related solutions and newer, leaner and more agile planned programming computer languages are significantly and constantly reducing costs.
Another contributing factor is that the rapidly deteriorating economic condition is driving investors away and this is forcing people and companies to search for, innovate and come up triumphantly with a clutch of low cost or freely available solutions to establish and bolster start-ups and survive any which way they can. Venture capital investment has taken a 70-plus percent free-falling death spiral in January 2009 itself and reports claim that the situation is not likely to improve till the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2009.
Remote data storage, Web-based programs and the growing popularity of broadband technologies all contribute to drastic cost reduction by neutralizing the need to buy, hire or contract servers, storage silos, network administrators, and annual maintenance contracts.
A few illustrative futuristic examples demonstrate this concept clearly. One, a salesman delivers a major sales pitch in a client’s meeting room by accessing media rich content from a remote location via the internet and displaying it on the client’s choice of visual display such as laptop screens, stand alone monitors, projector screens, or connected high definition TV’s.
Two, teachers in third world countries could possibly access UNICEF hosted class-room lectures without having to carry heavy text-books and notes, or storing info on the schools’ server and network. In fact why have computing infrastructure of any sort? Stand alone trolley mounted computer systems with low cost projectors that can access Internet connections in each class room should suffice.
A few contemporary examples of cloud computing are: Users of Facebook share mega bytes of personal information such as photos, poems, stories and personal details via remote and connected Facebook (News - Alert) servers spread worldwide; People store data in XLS, DOC, PPT and PDF compatible formats on Google Documents and not on their own systems. In all four cases the end user requires only internet connectivity and comparatively low grade compatible systems that can access, edit if required, and display the information.

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.

Vivek Naik is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Vivek's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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