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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 PC revolution and its easily acquired off-the-shelf applications took off, end users simply selected the solutions of their choice, be it Lotus 123 spreadsheets, Word Perfect word processors, or others. This empowered the users, but it also exposed them to certain risks. Their data was stored locally in an unsecure manner and was seldom backed up. IT provided some support but was starting to lose control. End users were able to change their machine configurations, pick their own products, and write their own custom macros to extend their solutions to meet their specific needs. This initially eliminated much of their dependency on IT, moving IT into a support role.

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?

As time passed, however, IT regained much of the control back from the end user. The introduction of solutions like group policy objects (GPOs) (to manage machine states), security management, and client/server products moved control back to IT. Things were back to normal.

Then, in the mid-90s, along comes the Internet and the end-user revolution is reborn. Users are again in full control; they select the sites they want to visit and they set their preferences without regard to IT. Preferences are instead managed by sites like Yahoo! IT is still fighting this battle today as Web usage continues to be a major security concern.

The cloud computing concept was born in the late 90s with the development of Web applications like Salesforce.com. A faster, cheaper, and more reliable Internet, as well as a general acceptance by most companies to trust their data with cloud vendors, drove the development of the cloud.

The dot com crash slowed the cloud, but it also removed the vendors that were not qualified, enabling only the strongest players to survive. Today, Google Apps and other similar products are again offering end users the choice of what to use and where their data should reside, just like the early days of the PC revolution. IT is once again on the outside looking in.

Web-based applications are a key part of the cloud, but they are not the entire picture. The cloud also includes the use of low-cost raw servers that are available on demand. These servers may be unpatched, unsecured, and unmonitored by IT. IT may not even be aware that the servers are in use as they are typically offsite and configured by the end user. This extends the revolution as end users can now build a server, set up a Web site and go, without any input or control from IT. There isn't even a need for a budget. All that is required is an Amazon account and a valid credit card. This certainly speeds up Web site creation, but it is obviously coming with serious risks.

What drives the cloud
Virtualized servers, which provide on-demand computing power in a very low-cost fashion, optimize the modern cloud. When tied to an ever-faster Internet and widely available and always connected Web devices, the cloud will continue to enable end users to create more and more servers and use more cloud-based applications. Each of these components need to be secured and managed by someone, or at least they should be, and IT is not yet part of the picture.


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