When Will The Cloud Get the Respect It Deserves?
Cloud computing and cloud applications are the most disruptive forces in today’s technology landscape. Having breezed through the hype cycle and entered maturity, the cloud now offers a wealth of unmatched advantages and opportunities. It impacts nearly every aspect of our lives and will shape how future information and business systems are engineered. If its momentum continues, the cloud will transform the way we do business.
In the beginning, organizations tiptoed around the cloud, especially in respect to enterprise-wide adoption. Security concerns were – and still are – cited as the main motive for IT departments keeping most data and software in house. It just didn’t feel safe and EC2 failures didn’t help matters. But as business users discovered the sheer value of effective, and sometimes even free cloud services, IT could not ignore the encroaching stream of cloud applications.
There is a halfway house however. The concept of private cloud appeals to data managers for two reasons. It makes them cloud savvy and allows them to act upon their mistrust of the public network. So, private clouds have cropped up, and corporate executives have looked on and approved. Go to the cloud, yes, but go cautiously. Information access and collaboration are greatly enhanced, and the naysayers came to know that this cloud idea was kind of flexible. Still, those private clouds sit behind a firewall and are more costly than the public cloud plus more constrained.
But we see that there is the start of a bridge. You can have a hybrid environment. Put one foot in the datacenter and one foot in the cloud. This addresses the needs of businesses that want to reduce their physical hardware footprint or at least stop it from growing.
Gartner has declared a hybrid computing environment to be “an imperative” and advises businesses to factor cloud computing into their short-term planning processes. The whole industry is on the move.
The Innovation Imperative
Whether its SaaS, PaaS or IaaS, lower cost, continuous availability, and faster time to value are among the magnetic attractions that drive cloud adoption. But another big one is innovation. Plus, of course, there are services out there in the cloud that you cannot get anywhere else. Dropbox and Google Docs for collaboration. Platforms like GitHub foster information sharing and reuse. Tableau Online provides access to its stunning BI visualization tool, allowing users to upload data sets and publish or embed the results. Nowadays, if staff members are not given such capabilities within the enterprise, they will go elsewhere.
Then Comes The Data Distribution Headache
Keeping pace with the distribution of data is one of the rare yet persistent problems of the cloud. Think of it like this. You may not want to run many datacenters – but if you use many different cloud services, that’s what you are doing in a way. True, the cost is low and the cloud services are likely to be highly resilient – and if they are not, why are you using them? The cloud provider takes responsibility for most of the datacenter headaches, but the one that no cloud provider can help with much is keeping the corporate data coherent.
In the age of Big Data, it’s not the cost of data storage that’s the problem – storage prices collapse by about 40-50% every year. The problem is data coherence and data consistency. Typically replication must be employed to do nothing more than keep all the data in step, between datacenters and from cloud to cloud.
Consider the hybrid situation where you run some applications in the cloud via IaaS and some on premise. You need a stepping stone for you if you want to move an application into the cloud. Run the application on a truly distributed database, however, then move the application. Test it all before you jump. That’s powerful, swift and not prone to error. It’s hard to think of a less painful way to take a homegrown application into the cloud.
It seems then that cloud innovation is not just about delivering new applications and services, it’s also about delivering new technologies – especially in the data layer where data distribution can be a permanent headache. It’s about database technology that can, if intelligently deployed, make many different datacenters, cloud or otherwise, behave almost as if they were just one.
Dr. Robin Bloor is the Co-founder and Chief Analyst of The Bloor Group. He has more than 30 years of experience in the world of data and information management. He is the creator of the Information-Oriented Architecture, which is to data what the SOA is to services. He is the author of several books including, The Electronic B@zaar, From the Silk Road to the eRoad; a book on e-commerce and three IT books in the Dummies Series on SOA, Service Management and The Cloud.