"Cloud computing" is now mature enough for chief information officers to "experiment" with, according to Accenture's chief scientist.
Speaking at the 21st annual CIO Workshop on Wednesday, Kishore Swaminathan, the IT consulting firm's chief scientist, defined the "cloud" as "the sourcing of capability up there, from a place you don't know or need to know".
Pointing to developments in the space, such as Amazon's virtual storage service and Google and Salesforce.com's recent alliance, Swaminathan said the industry's progress in creating hardware, services and applications in the "cloud" is something CIOs should seriously look at.
The chief scientist suggested placing "non-strategic" applications and "non-sensitive" information in the "cloud", and using the process to test out performance and integration issues.
"Say the business unit wants to do something new. Suddenly, you're faced with the huge headache of trying to get equipment. If it isn't critical, why not test it on the cloud?" said Swaminathan.
While analysts have recently portrayed the cloud as "disruptive" and something to be "prepared" for, Swaminathan was decidedly more positive about the technology's advent.
"Cloud computing allows you to quickly scale up a project without risk, and, if the project fails, gracefully withdraw," he said.
However, Swaminathan cautioned that "cloud computing" is not mature enough for CIOs to build a strategy upon just yet. "Issues like security and privacy still have to be addressed," he said, but the cloud is "more secure than companies think".
Swaminathan added that companies should try to embrace external applications such as those on social-networking sites: "It's a stupid idea to block out mashups and social-networking apps... A company's CIO cannot keep up with the innovation of these companies simply because that's their core business."
Platforms such as Facebook are becoming more organised by publishing their APIs and giving users privacy controls with which to define how their want their identities managed, he said, adding that integrating such platforms could go a long way in connecting employees with existing technology.
On virtual worlds such as Second Life, Swaminathan said: "I don't think, two years from now, there will be a Second Life... These worlds are 'closed' and have proprietary currencies. Perhaps open standards will make [virtual worlds] more attractive to companies."