September 5, 2008

The Future of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing—“a style of computing where IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’, allowing users to access technology-enabled services ‘in the cloud’ without knowledge of, expertise with, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports them.” (Wikipedia)

In an article in InfoWorld, 7 April 2008, called What Cloud Computing Really Means, Galen Gruman states that “Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT capabilities.”

What’s an example of cloud computing?

An example of cloud computing is Google Apps that provides common business applications (similar to traditional office suits) online.”

How does cloud computing work?

In cloud computing, resources--either hardware or software--are available on-demand—as needed.

In the case of on-demand software, application service providers (ASPs) offer software as a service (SaaS). And for on-demand hardware or IT infrastructure (i.e. virtual data center capabilities such as servers or storage), the offering takes the form of utility computing. In both cases, technology resources are served up on a pay-as-you-go or metered basis, similar to the way a public utility would charge for electricity, oil/gas, telephone, water, and so on.

The cloud computing model is similar to service oriented architecture where there is a service provider and consumer, and here the Internet functions the basic service broker.

Cloud computing is has a basis in technology virtualization in which service providers "hide the physical characteristics of computing resources from their users [consumers]." (Wikipedia)

What are the major advantages of cloud computing?

Cost—one of the big advantages of this computing model is that the upfront IT investment cost is little to none, since the IT assets are in essence being rented.

Scalability—customers have the ability to use more resources when they have a surge in demand and can scale back or turn off the spigot when the resources are not needed.

Flexibility—As IT capabilities get updated by the service provider, consumers in the cloud model can make immediate use of them and benefit sooner than if they had to stand up the capabilities themselves.

Mission focus—The enterprise can stay focused on core mission and mission support capabilities and in essence easily outsource business support functions, where the service provider is responsible for enabling more generic (not strategic or differentiators) business capabilities.

What are the enterprise architecture implications?

Cloud computing can play an important role in focusing IT solutions on strategic mission requirements, simplifying and standardizing our IT infrastructures by outsourcing capabilities, utilizing a services oriented architecture (SOA) model where common business services are served up by providers and consumed by the enterprise, and more effectively managing costs.

What is the future of cloud computing?

Obviously, there are security implications, but as Galen Gruman states: “as SOA and virtualization permeate the enterprise, the idea of loosely coupled services running on an agile, scalable infrastructure should make every enterprise a node in the cloud. It’s a long-running tend with a far-out horizon. But among big metatrends, cloud computing is the hardest one to argue with in the long term.



anders said...

I totally agree with your definition of cloud computing. By the way i think the term cloud computing and the technology behind it is not what should get peoples attention. Most people have heard of grid computing which has been used internally for many years in many enterprises. Cloud computing as i see it is grid computing that has been added intelligent virtualization. So, the technology behind a cloud is not a giant leap. The real value for enterprises is in utility computing and other cloud computing services like SaaS and PaaS. These are the services and terms we shuld pay attention as they are going to change the enterprise use of IT.

Could you expand your description of the relation between cloud computing and Enterprise Architecture?
I think this is a very interesting topic, as many enterprises are currently working with EA and therefore would like to know how to integrate cloud computing in that context. How does cloud computing fit into i.e the EA3-cube (Scott Bernard)?

Also, could you elaborate a bit on how you see cloud computing as a driver for standardization in the enterprise?

Best regards

Andy Blumenthal said...

Anders - Thanks for your post.

It is nice to see that we share the excitement about cloud computing and related platforms (SaaS, PaaS, Grid Computing, Utility Computing, Virtualization...).

Your questions are very interesting and thought provoking.

I see cloud computing closely aligned with SOA and the ability to provide and consume software and hardware platforms as a service.

In terms of the fit with Scott Bernard's EA3 cube, I see it as a cross-cut. Where services are accessed virtually and consumed across lines of business in the most flexible and cost-effective manner.

And yes, cloud computing is a way to standardize services in the enterprise, reducing niche applications, technologies, and customizations.

Of course, I welcome yours and others thoughts.