Is it time for cloud computing to go mainstream?

cloud computing

The VP of cloud sevices for VMware said the pay-as-you-go cost model is a compelling reason for adoption. Credit: Chris84

A recent cloud computing pronouncement by a New York Times blogger — that “last summer was the beginning of the end for the old guard” and “this fall begins a new competition for the hearts and minds of corporate customers” — might not ring true to those who have been closely following trends in enterprise tech.

As the post states, new and veteran tech vendors are indeed devoting huge “efforts to be relevant in a new world of cloud computing, smartphones and tablets.” But the transition is hardly just getting started.

The enterprise has been transitioning to cloud computing for years, looking for the best ways to take advantage of its speed, flexibility, and cost savings. Sure, the cloud’s biggest enterprise wins to date have come in private clouds — proprietary, on-premise solutions using cloud-based architectures. But the cloud continues to pick up momentum as it takes over more critical business functions and gradually expands into public cloud services.

A “fireside chat” at the CloudBeat 2013 conference in San Francisco earlier this month placed this transition in perspective by featuring the viewpoints of three influencers.

Aspects of cloud still “unicorns and rainbows”

One panelist, Christian Reilly, manager of engineering, procurement and construction systems at Bechtel, offered that some enterprises are still wary of casually spinning out extra workloads to the public cloud. Describing cloud bursting as “still a bit of unicorns and rainbows,” Reilly said enterprises really want to “strategically move some workloads to the cloud when there’s commonality” between public and private platforms.

Achieving that is critical to convincing business managers that everything is the same in the cloud, he said. Operations managers, meanwhile, want to monitor everything on a single pane of glass — a tall order when working with multiple cloud services.

“Enterprises are nervous about porting workloads to various public clouds,” he said.

Storage challenges force transition

But making that transition may soon become a business requirement as enterprises face a huge challenge in processing resources, argued Digital River CIO Christopher Rence, another panelist. Internal storage requirements are doubling every 14 months, for example, and the pace is accelerating, he said. Fortune 500 companies that are developing strategies to meet this challenge by shifting to the cloud are “hopeful that a hybrid approach will solve the problem” by providing a middle ground between public and private clouds.

Rence couched cloud computing as a legacy issue by asking, “If you started your company all over again, would you start it in the same way?” He replied, “The answer is absolutely no, in all cases.”

Cloud as a procurement issue

The resource crunch Rence cited suggests that cloud computing’s variable cost model will be as important as its technological underpinnings.

The third panelist, Matthew Lodge, vice president of cloud services at VMware, said the cloud’s pay-as-you-go, pay-for-what-you-use approach represents a huge break from how hardware and software have traditionally been acquired. This cost model, he said, is a compelling reason for adoption that goes beyond the technological advantages.

“Existing software models match how hardware used to be procured,” Lodge said. “If that’s not flexible enough, that’s a great reason to move to the cloud.

Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul is an award-winning writer, editor and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at InformationWeek, CNET and PC World. He lives in San Francisco.
Fredric Paul
Tags: Cloud Computing,Technology