A Business Case That's Hard to Ignore

Silver Lining

A Business Case That's Hard to Ignore

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  January 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2012 issue of Cloud Computing.

The past year has seen the use of cloud-based services and applications increase faster than many would have expected. While there’s no shortage us consumer usage (see iCloud, GoogleApps, etc.), the same combination of ubiquitous access and ease of management/use offers a business case that is hard to ignore. In fact, the suggestion from IDC (News - Alert) that by next year, three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will be mobile will only fuel the fire, as the current growth in mobile data usage will only continue. If businesses can mobilize more of their workforces – either putting them on the road or allowing more flexibility in terms of work environment – because they are no longer restricted by physical network limitations, why wouldn’t they?

The question is, what will businesses look for in the cloud to help drive business, how will they implement, and how will it impact their existing assets and staff? Not to mention what will the innovation that is an indelible part of the technology space bring next? But that’s why we launched Cloud Computing magazine—to identify and discuss the latest trends and tendencies.

The natural place to start is with storage as a backup facility and disaster recovery mechanism. Also common are virtual cloud servers that can be turned up as needed, either for peak computing periods or as a business continuity solution. Neither is particularly risky from an operational perspective, nor do they place a great management burden in IT staff.

But demand for more flexibility in access to resources will significantly extend the growth of cloud from infrastructure (IaaS) to cloud platforms (PaaS)and services (SaaS (News - Alert)). Thanks goes partially to Salesforce.com, with its combination of SaaS and PaaS offerings, but also to the success of mobile applications stores, like Apple’s (News - Alert) App Store and Google’s Android Market (underscoring the benefit of cloud platforms, both also provide access via fixed networks),

What we’ll see in the next year is even more adoption of similar enterprise solutions, bringing the App Store concept to corporate users, leveraging the IaaS investments businesses have already made and extending their ability to address redundancy and mobility needs, while relieving IT groups of the burden of having to manage additional infrastructure.

Whether it’s cloud-based CRM like SugarCRM (News - Alert) or Netsuite, enterprise-wide communications platforms like 8x8 or Interactive Intelligence, or cloud security, which should experience significant growth considering security management requirements, enterprise services deployed in a cloud environment are growing faster than ever.

Importantly, this isn’t a negative for IaaS providers. While SaaS and PaaS vendors will see more new customers, cloud infrastructure providers will be called upon by cloud services providers for more resources as demand for their services increases, especially in industries with periods of fluctuating demand. Not only will platform and vendors need flexible infrastructure, but mobile operators will need the capacity to roll out new apps and services quickly without having to take the time to build out data centers. Today’s is a time to market environment and not having to build or manage infrastructure is a tremendous benefit.

 In addition, existing IaaS customers are likely to see their needs increase as they expand capabilities. That’s one of the huge benefits of cloud – it’s easily and quickly scalable to meet evolving needs.

Apps and services are not going to require fewer resources. There isn’t going to be a decline in the number of them available, either in business or consumer contexts. Cloud usage in all flavors is going to continue to climb.

Should IT managers be worried? Not likely. Businesses will always have infrastructure that needs to be managed, and outsourcing of infrastructure or certain network-related tasks will only allow IT staff to focus on those internal duties, further extending the benefits of cloud, as staff will have more attentive and reliable IT staff at their disposal.

Ironically, it may be other corporate staff that may be in more danger. As more and more services and applications move to the cloud, the result will be a need for increased knowledge of cloud computing to effectively manage corporate teams and projects. Whether its customer service, HR, marketing, or sales, multiple groups within the organizational structure are now starting to leverage cloud computing, which means they need a level of understanding and expertise.

Look up at the sky. The cloud, you will see, is constantly changing. Likewise, cloud computing is in a state of constant flux, with the only certainty being it will continue to grow. I hope you enjoy Cloud Computing magazine and welcome your feedback and commentary.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi