In last month's TechLines: Cloud Control event, panellists discussed how the cloud allows businesses to become more adaptable, innovating faster and ramping up computing needs for a growing (or shrinking) business, yet it also exposes them to technology lock-in.
"If I suddenly turn out to have a flavour of the month website or web service offering, I can immediately buy as much computing power from them on demand," futurist Mark Pesce said.
He pointed out that there were a lot of projects that get launched and turn out to be more popular than expected, and so they fall down under a tsunami of traffic.
"More and more, people are turning to the cloud, because they want to be able to handle that kind of success."
Gianpaolo Carraro, director Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism, said that it wasn't just about fast success, but also about fast failure.
Cloud-enabled businesses tend to throw away the nine attempts they had at a product before settling on the 10th, he explained, as testing the first versions costs little.
"The upfront cost being smaller, I can try more things. If I try more things, I end up finding the gem," he said. "That creates an innovation cycle that we didn't have before."
Governments will also have a new way to provide shared services, according to Ovum analyst Kevin Noonan; instead of one agency having a great app that won't work on another agency's systems, the application can be in the cloud.
"If it's in the cloud, you know it's going to work because it's in a defined environment," Noonan said.
However, many businesses are worrying that if they move their data into the cloud, they won't be able to move it from vendor to vendor, the panellists said.
"There's an interesting parallel in decisions that we've had to make with it over the years," Noonan said.
"People have had to grapple with the same questions: if I buy this database system, am I really locked in? If I buy this customer relationship management system, am I really locked in?" he said.
"Cloud is very similar. How far do you want to go? If you buy infrastructure-as-a-service, backing out of a piece of infrastructure is relatively straightforward."
Yet, the higher up the stack you move, the harder it is to port data in and out, he added.
For customers to jump into cloud, providers needed to consider this issue hard, according to IBM R&D Australia director and chief technologist Glenn Wightwick
"Ultimately, if we don't deliver portability and the ability to migrate between cloud providers that's going to be an impediment to people really getting on board," he said.
"We need to do more work in the IT industry, to build standards to enable those sort of things to occur."