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Understanding cloud opportunities, challenges

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cloud computing? data center? server hosting? virtualization?

As the end-user computing revolution enters midlife, it is inhaling a breath of fresh air from a relatively new technology called cloud computing. End-users' desire for more information faster will become reality as the cloud combines with always online clients such as netbooks, Google's Chrome operating system and Internet-heavy smartphones. This will also, however, likely trigger a climatic final battle between the end users and the IT groups charged with keeping end-users' environments stable and secure.

The cloud revolution is a double-edged swordit brings total empowerment for the end user, but it robs IT of many of its traditional duties and powers. Over the years, each phase of the end-user revolution has created terrific efficiency gains and cost reductions for businesses in rapid fashion.

In this report
??How cloud computing started
??What drives the cloud
??Breaking IT dependence to solve a business problem
??Virtualization enables the cloud
??Accelerating development, delivery of new apps
??Private vs. public cloud computing
??Which cloud vendors will rise to the top?
??Yes, there are risks
??The risks are worthwhile
??Will Microsoft, Google be the 1k-pound gorillas of the cloud?

We've seen things move from the mainframe to the PC, to client/server architectures, to the Web, and now to the cloud. With the cloud phase, we are seeing the 50-year battle between the end user and the IT nearing an end. IT will evolve either by becoming a strategic partner with its customers or be relegated to fielding the occasional helpdesk call and chasing security risks and other incidents.

We are in the early phase of a mega change. As the cloud reveals itself, it will present a whole new set of risks, challenges, and opportunities. Those it will affect the most are IT employees, security experts, and software product vendors.

In simple terms, the biggest change with the cloud revolution involves (1) moving the data center offsite to a third party and (2) buying services rather than maintaining on-site applications. At the same time, it means IT no longer manages servers and applications directly. As desktops become as disposable as mobile phones and as the use of virtualization increases, IT will be needed less and less. This will create the biggest change IT has ever seen.

Cloud computing is a reality; it's being used more often every day. Much as the PC revolution enabled end users to run the software of their choice, cloud computing allows end users to run the client/server, Web-based software of their choice. Such a change must not be ignored and instead should be capitalized on now.

How cloud computing started
A great way to learn the future of the cloud is to study its recent history and by reviewing the early days of the PC revolution. In the 1980s, the PC revolution brought computing power to the end user and away from the mainframe world managed by IT.

Before the PC revolution, however, computer users had to work with IT to create mainframe applications; the user had no control and IT had all the power. This enabled IT to make and enforce all the rules, leaving the end user frustrated but safe and fairly productive. The end user, however, could not move as fast as they wanted or in the ways they wanted.

IT by its nature was a roadblock, caused by the drive for good security and computer management. It didn't help most applications that were created by design teams and business analysts. The IT roadblock was understandable, but it slowed things down for the end user.

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