Cloud Computing bring IT up in the cloud

With cloud computing, firms can view IT as a utility rather than as a hefty capital cost – and more companies are catching on. A knack for tech is what nine-year-old Lim Ding Wen has, judging by Doodle Kids, his drawing program for the iPhone to help his younger sisters, ages three and five, draw on the touchscreen using their fingers.

It has been downloaded nearly half a million times in three months from Apple’s App Store since it was made available in January.

Technology is not about building and maintaining infrastructure – it is about using IT to solve problems. Yet, nearly seven in 10 enterprise IT dollars are spent on maintenance and, in a decentralised computing environment, as much as 85 percent of IT capacity can remain idle. This need to change. The combination of the Internet, broadband networks, virtualisation technology and increasingly powerful commodity computing resources like hard drives creates the conditions for the next development in IT – cloud computing.

The idea is to hardness pools of computing resources to give enterprise access to IT infrastructure without the need for large capital investments. Cloud computing remove the need to over-engineer infrastructure. With it, enterprise can acquire resources as needed and when usage peters off, these resources can be turned off. When you pay only for what you use, the economics of providing IT resources changes dramatically.

In this framework, IT expenditure shifts from capital expenditure which makes it easier for the IT department of justify.

On the horizon
If the enterprises view IT as an utility, then continued investment in infrastructure when options exist would be like operating your own power station just to get electricity.

IT is an information utility. Growing adoption of virtualisation technology will advance cloud computing and its promise of self service, on-demand usage and portability.

Research firm Gartner Inc anticipates that by 2011, enterprises will buy as much as 40 percent of their IT infrastructure as a service. By 2012, at least one-third of business application software spending will be on service subscription instead of product licensing.

The move to cloud computing will not happen dramatically. Rather, it will be evolutionary as enterprises get used to freeing applications from specific infrastructure. A recent market study by Merrill Lynch predicts that the global market for cloud computing will reach US$95 billion (S$137.75 billion) in the next five years, or about 12 percent of software deployed in the world.

It added that the economic recession will likely add pressure to firms to adopt cloud computing faster. In Singapore, pay-per-use computing services are already a reality for a number of government and commercial organisations though the National Grid initiative. According to one computing resource provider participating in the initiative, critical mass is within reach in three years’ time.

The more compelling vision is the creation of Grid Market Hub in Singapore by 2013 that will offer businesses anywhere in the world infocomm resources on an on-demand, pay-as-you-use basic.

In short, cloud computing will move to the forefront in Singapore and IT organosations will not be able to ignore it. The open source, collaborative model of developing and consuming software will be pivotal. As cloud providers grow, given their scale, the costs of acquiring proprietary software will loom large in the business calculations.

Gathering momentum
More importantly, community-driven open source software ensures cloud computing is open, standards-based, inter-operable and free from technology lock-in. Openness makes it possible for enterprises to switch colud computing providers or architectures as conditions change, for example, when acquisitions occur.

In the United States, where the cloud computing wave is gathering momentum, nearly all major cloud providers like Amazon, for example, use open source software. The on-demand cloud computing model will transform the way in which enterprises will use IT.

Freed from the time and cost constraints of implementing and maintaining underlying IT infrastructure, enterprises can focus on creating business solutions to operate successfully.

Source from Gery Messer, president of Red Hat Asia Pacific/Japan

This article was first published in The Straits Times.