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10/22/2008
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Time To Think About Cloud Computing

The shift to delivering IT through a utility model is poised to change the business computing landscape as we know it.

Although 65% of the business technology professionals we polled for our recent InformationWeek Analytics cloud computing report have not yet identified moving IT functions into the cloud as a priority, we expect that to change in fairly short order.

This is, simply, an evolutionary step.

The proliferation of telework, laptops, smartphones, and other Internet-connected gadgets means enterprise users may possess two or three different devices, and frustration is rampant as they attempt to synchronize information across disparate form factors and operating systems. They just want to get to the applications and data they need, when they need them.

Cloud computing vendors are riding a perfect storm of software-as-a-service and grid computing, virtualization, co-location, outsourced Web hosting, and pervasive broadband and 3G wireless Internet access to enable the move toward anywhere, anytime access to business applications.

InformationWeek Reports

Now, IT's ingrained skepticism was apparent in the 23% of business technology pros polled who, when asked how they felt about cloud computing, wrote it off as "just hype; old premise, different name." We understand their stance--transformational change is always difficult--but today's mobile, interconnected environments demand new approaches to delivering business apps. Cloud computing will move to the forefront of the market, and IT organizations will not be able to ignore it. Nor should they, a fact not lost on other respondents: "I believe that the ability to buy CPU time, storage, and application function in a SaaS-type model in the same ways that companies buy electricity, rent, and cleaning services will do amazing things for budgets and planning," says one reader.

In our poll, the No. 1 cloud resource that respondents expect to access within two years is a slate of business apps, like CRM or ERP, delivered over the Internet. In second place is using a provider's raw CPU time and storage resources to run apps that IT purchases or develops on its own. When not burdened with the costs and time to set up an underlying infrastructure, organizations can focus on app requirements as they relate to the business and either design a custom app or modify one that already exists in a cloud environment.

As for transitioning services into the cloud, our poll indicates that storage, archiving, and disaster recovery functions are most likely to be moved. Makes sense--in most organizations, these capabilities are the last to receive attention and funding, at least until a major outage occurs. Cloud computing environments can offer good levels of failover, redundancy, and overall resiliency of resources without a significant infrastructure investment. Another area that IT should take ownership of in cloud computing environment is testing the disaster recovery capabilities to ensure that they are providing the advertised services.

Sixty-five percent of poll respondents say the ability to quickly meet business demands is a very important driver for cloud computing, and this plays into the strength of the platform. One of the most challenging and costly aspects of managing an IT environment is capacity management and planning. Typically, organizations simply overengineer systems and provide more computing ability and network resources than they expect to need. Case in point is a client that, based on our analysis of its lab environment, was utilizing its 200-plus servers, on average, at 9% capacity. What a waste. With cloud computing, there's no need to overengineer or manage capacity with the ability to provision new capabilities almost instantly. And if usage is decreasing, you can reduce resources in parallel, also cutting costs.

While 77% say "going green" is a somewhat or very important driver for outsourcing, other data suggests that costs are truly the most important factor. Still, it's great when green initiatives align with cost savings, and cloud computing is one of those cases.

chart: What are your organization's plans for cloud computing?

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