With cloud computing nearing the end of the hype/confusion/hype stage, CIOs must focus on quantifiable business benefits and long-term viability.
The tech industry has had a long history of coining terms which needlessly confuse potential customers. But, we've certainly outdone ourselves with today's "cloud computing" jargon. Few ideas have generated as much press and debate as today's cloud computing phenomenon.
Yet, there is no question that the first generation of cloud computing services has delivered tangible business benefits to early adopters. Now, the market must enter a new era to demonstrate to a broader set of IT and business decision-makers that it is okay to put aside their fears and take a serious look at how they can leverage the rapidly evolving cloud capabilities to achieve their corporate objectives.
Part of the confusion associated with cloud computing stems from the mixing together of various elements into a single idea. For instance, it is the success of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that has spawned the emergence of Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) and inspired the idea of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). However, each of these types of cloud services are at varying stages of maturity and have differing risks associated with them.
SaaS has been generally proven to be a viable alternative to traditional on-premise legacy applications in almost every horizontal software category from front office and collaboration to back-office operations and supply chain. Questions about security, reliability and performance have subsided. And, concerns about being forced to accept one-size-fits-all solutions have given way to increasingly flexible and configurable services.
The evolution of SaaS has also led to the emergence of PaaS, which permit users to build their own applications, much like they did in the past using development platforms provided by the previous generations of software leaders. Even here, apprehensions about vendor lock-in are being alleviated by a growing set of industry alliances that promise greater openness across PaaS alternatives, such as Salesforce.com's recent partnership with VMware to create VMforce.
\Where much of the controversy and concerns about security, reliability and lock-in still lingers is in the IaaS segment of the market. Here IT and business decision-makers remain apprehensive about moving their data into unproven or uncertain vendor data-center operations.
Compounding these concerns is the "cloud rush" effect of a proliferation of players jumping into the market to stake a claim for a share of the vast opportunities that this transformation process offers. We are being flooded with self-serving claims from a widening array of vendors that are trying to redefine the meaning of cloud computing to suit their proprietary interests.
But, when you wash away the hyperbole, the key value propositions of cloud computing are still compelling and clearly differentiated from previous business models. For example:
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