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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?

In a cloud model, the initial backend can remain small and grow automatically when demand creates additional need. The business spends only on what is needed at any given time and does not have to foot the bill up front for equipment in anticipation of how customer demands will scale.

After a product has been in its market for a while, during low-use periods, the server count is automatically reduced; during periods of high demand, the number of servers is automatically increased. This provides simplified cost-saving optimizations in which costs scale only with demand. In this way, the cloud reduces the total cost of IT expenses needed to get a product in the hands of an end user. In addition, if the business decides to move to a new cloud vendor or partner that is offering lower costs and better support levels, migration is simple with low initiation costs.

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?

Private vs. public cloud computing
Larger companies and government agencies are likely to consider going to the cloud but in a much more controlled and secure fashion. This will be accomplished by using a private cloud.

A private cloud has all the benefits of a public cloud, but it is hosted inside the firewall of the company or department that it is supporting. Full control of who has access to data is maintained while all the benefits of the cloud are realized. End users simply buy their cloud services from the private cloud, and the private cloud treats the end users in the same way a cloud vendor treats its customers.

An institution would need to be fairly large to get benefits from this model. Smaller groups that do not want or cannot have their data leave their network can host virtualized environments that have many of the features of the cloud, although they would be missing certain benefits that a public cloud provides such as the sharing of expertise and access to scalable resources.

Which cloud vendors will rise to the top?
The near-term future of the cloud includes the acceptance of large cloud providers that provide a full array of services. Today, Amazon provides great operating systems as a service, but it does not provide server support or managed services such as e-mail. Google provides some managed services such as e-mail, but it does not provide a good solution for operating systems as a service.

Currently, there is no major vendor offering a full variety of cloud-based services, and this is a key next step. Because there is no limit to providing a full set of cloud-based services, it is just a matter of time before someone leads the way.

Who will lead the cloud computing revolution has still not been determined, but the race is definitely on. The complete package may come from
???behemoths like Microsoft or IBM
???small startups that are more nimble and may grow fast to take the market
???telephone vendors like Verizon or British Telecom
???hosting providers like RackSpace
???Internet giants like Amazon (with Amazon Web Services) or Google
???the mobile computing world of Apple and RIM.

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