Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Future of cloud computing

While cloud computing as a technology has existed for some time now, the way businesses are using it has been rapidly changing

Explosion of information across industries as well as consumers is no longer a phenomenon that surprises us but the scale of it keeps getting bigger. Just to sample a few numbers—120 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute every day; more than 200 million emails are exchanged every minute; and a server has to be activated every 10 seconds to support new smartphones.

This is leading to unprecedented challenges for businesses, which need to manage their IT infrastructure to cater to such needs; and at the same time is presenting immense opportunities to organizations that can deploy their infrastructure effectively to tap into the needs of consumers and corporations.

Chief information officers (CIOs), who are in-charge of driving their organizations to adapt to the changing world, are no longer just heading support functions for the business focused on cost, optimization and reliability. But the IT department is becoming a key business driver in itself focused on speed, flexibility and innovation to cater to customer needs.

This evolving role has mandated a change in the way IT objectives are defined in organizations. While CEOs oversee growth, this is leading CIOs to look at new consumption models for IT and to use new emerging technologies. The higher adoption of cloud computing is one of the key focus areas for CIOs to enable their businesses to be more agile and responsive to market demands.

While cloud computing as a technology has existed for some time now, the way businesses are using it has been rapidly changing. What started in many ways as simple hosting services, has progressed to Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and more.

Improvements in hardware technologies—in terms of higher performing CPUs (central processing units), more RAM (random access memory) expandability and better networking options—have contributed to the effective utilization of cloud computing for more and more workloads.

Simultaneously, many software vendors too have already adopted or are seriously considering adopting new licensing practices for the cloud model. These changes in the model in which IT is “consumed" has taken away a lot of pain for CIOs in deploying and managing IT; they have now more predictable opex (operating expenditure) rather than large upfront capex (capital expenditure) investments; and services can be made available to core businesses “on demand".

There is overwhelming evidence in favour of using cloud computing and that has led to large investments and business growth for public cloud providers. But for many organizations the decisions to move are not that simple with many extraneous inhibiting factors playing a key role. Inhibitors to cloud adoption still exist—security of data, industry regulations, privacy concerns and vendor lock-in.

These impact the willingness of businesses, especially large corporations, to move all workloads to a public cloud. At the same time, having tasted success and benefits of cloud computing, CIOs do not want to go back to traditional computing. And this is leading to the evolution and growth of hybrid computing— deployment of workloads where the inhibiting factors (mentioned above) play a role, is done on an “on-premise" or “private" cloud; while other workloads are moving to the public cloud. CIOs are also using cost considerations (especially when the workload deployment is long term) to decide on this balance.

While we have had a glimpse of how customers are responding and adapting to the growth of cloud computing, this has had an equal if not bigger impact on IT vendors too. The IT buying process, which involved vendors, VARs (value-added resellers), SI (system integration) partners and internal purchasing teams, doesn’t need the same complexity when workloads have to be deployed on the cloud.

Some of the intermediaries are seeing their roles changed or diminished to a large extent. Cloud providers are getting access to customer usage data and are using that for improving their services and pricing. Vendors too need to make changes to their products, services and business models in order to stay relevant and grow their business. More open technologies are the order of the day. Customers no longer want hardware or software products that have a “lock-in" effect. “Software defined" is the new buzzword and is driving costs lower, and making deployment and management of infrastructure easy.

The last word in the development of cloud computing is far from written; the only certainty is that it is leading to an upheaval in the industry demanding changes from customers, services providers and traditional IT vendors.

Darwinism seems to be at play here too—only those who adapt the best, will survive.

The author is managing director and chief executive officer at Lenovo India.