You may have noticed that the IT vendor weather has recently become quite stormy as these organisations claim to see “clouds” appearing from almost each and every direction. There is no doubt that many IT vendors are either talking about this or seeking to bring a variety of offerings to the Cloud market. The question really is, should organisations expect their IT systems infrastructure to become hazy with numerous Cloud offerings?
Let me try to be clear about what I think of as Cloud IT. In fact the term can be deceptive as to my mind there is no single definition or description that absolutely defines cloud offerings. To my mind a cloud offering is any service that runs utilising IT infrastructure resources such as Servers, storage or applications etc; that are not hosted within the environment of the organisation and of which it has no legal ownership. In this model very many SaaS (software as a a service) offerings can be found along with many of the pay on demand / pay for consumption infrastructure services.
Indeed the past few weeks has seen Microsoft talking about project Azure at its PDC conference in Los Angeles whilst Salesforce.com held its Dreamforce conference the following week in San Francisco. Both vendors, and indeed most of the rest of the community, speak with almost uniform glee about the importance that “the Cloud” would play as organisations look to develop and deploy production systems free of such traditional IT constraints of capacity limitations and availability of capital budget.
It is more than apparent that many IT vendors are expecting that the use of cloud services will grow very rapidly. Although in truth it is probably fairer to say that “hoping” is a more appropriate verb than “expecting”. For my part, and backed up by most of our research statistics, it is clear that SaaS, as opposed to the more generic Cloud computing, is continuing to grow. However it must be said that it is not “explosive growth”, rather a more controlled use, with an appropriate approach, rather than an out and out fashion.
I have great faith that the SaaS and generic cloud type models will take a very firm role in the delivery of IT services over the course of the coming years. Note the use of the word “model”. Many organisations are already looking to deliver their internal services using the SaaS approach, but running on the company’s own infrastructure. There is also a very clear connection between many of the capabilities that the virtualisation of the IT infrastructure that is now being undertaken could essentially end up delivering cloud compute type facilities, but once again hosted on corporately owned kit.
I do see the use of externally delivered SaaS and, ultimately, cloud computing services becoming very strong but there are many obstacles that need to be overcome. These include many matters of privacy and data / service location as many nations already place strong limitations on where and how much information can be processed.
Today many cloud and SaaS services are hosted on systems operating from the USA making them, at least in theory, unsuitable for many uses by non-US located entities. For example many European nations already have strong privacy laws that restrict how, and sometimes where, data can be stored and processed. Clearly for SaaS and Cloud computing to take off, the weather systems involved need to be far more widely dispersed than is currently the case.
Beyond this there is also a need for both the vendor sales models to evolve, and I do mean evolve as there is no widespread recognition of just how organisations wish to pay for these services. And ultimately, as I have said before (IT Budgets, Clouds and Virtualisation),
the manner in which IT budgets are created, operated and ultimately modified requires significant change for virtualisation, cloud and SaaS to really take off in mainstream business. It will happen, but not like an overnight storm.