Sunny skies ahead for cloud computing

CIOs need to prepare for the advent of cloud computing, because the technology is here to stay, says Gartner analyst.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Companies that have yet to think about cloud computing should start, or risk being "torpedoed" by the technology, says David Cearley, Gartner vice president.

Speaking at a Gartner conference Tuesday, Cearley said cloud computing poses both short and long term disruption for companies. "As Web services start improving and eating into mainstream needs, [the technology] eats into companies that have invested in traditional enterprise computing models and that have not made provision for these new trends," said Cearley.

Cearley defined cloud computing as a consolidation term for Web platforms, Web 2.0 and utility computing, explaining the imprecision as a result of cloud computing's constantly-evolving concept.

"All these services that were taking advantage of the Internet are now gelling and converging together," said Cearley.

This includes offline developments such as hardware innovations like grid computing, virtualization and parallel processing--all of which contribute to a faster and more robust cloud, Cearley added. "After all, someone's cloud is someone else's data center," he said.

And cloud computing is here to stay. "80 percent of companies over the next three to five years will tap into a resource or service in the cloud," said Cearley.

However, CIOs have much to prepare for, he noted. One issue would be a change in security governance policies.

"Assume you will have to build around hostile security environment," said Cearley, noting that cloud computing privacy policies are "still a work in progress".

Management best practices such as ITIL (information technology library) will have to be modified too, he said. "It's hard to translate ITIL straight to the Web. This may probably be the biggest limiting factor for your costs."

Expect to eventually manage a myriad of different service providers, as vendors scramble to find their niches in the applications and services layer, he said.

"Even the big mainstream players will come to the game, but it will take time for them to have a coherent product plan," he noted, citing Microsoft's Popfly and LiveMesh as examples of "traditional" players' forays into providing Web 2.0 products.

CIOs should start by "embracing Web standards" and directing teams to strategize around best practices governing Web platforms, he said.

Over the next 12 months, CIOs should experiment with Web services and demand that service providers explain how cloud computing will affect their offerings, said Cearley.

As a long term plan, CIOs should establish a proper role for cloud computing in their enterprise ecosystem, Cearley added.

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