Jennifer Smith Cloud computing at top of hype cycle
Jinfo Blog

Sunday, 8th November 2009

By Jennifer Smith


Cloud computing is now at the top of the Gartner hype cycle, according to Gartner research director, Mike Spink, presenting at the Cloud Computing World Forum in London, 22 October. This follows Gartner's announcement earlier in the month placing cloud computing at the top of their strategic technologies list for 2010.

The popularity of cloud computing, which enables organisations ad-hoc use of the computing resources of external companies such as Amazon, Google and Rackspace, has grown rapidly over the last few years.

Interest in cloud computing is due to the flexibility it offers a business, rather than overall cost reductions, according to speakers at October's one-day conference. The flexibility comes from enabling faster roll-out of new business applications, and access to on-demand temporary extra computing capacity.

Gartner expects cloud computing to shortly enter the next stage of it's hype cycle, 'the trough of disillusionment'. The IT industry has invested massively in the infrastructure to provide cloud computing services, with a consequently highly-aggressive sales and marketing effort. The result is likely to be disappointment as the hyped benefits fail to deliver a magic bullet.

Whilst cloud computing has frequently been promoted as a cost-effective solution, speakers and delegates stressed that the cost comparison was far from straightforward. With so many different business uses, and different providers, it should not be assumed that cloud computing is always the cheapest option.

Security, and the geographical location of stored data, is still a major concern for those considering cloud computing. Kostas Tsatsaris, CTO of HM Revenues and Customs, reported interest in cloud computing from government departments to better cope with annual peaks of business activity, but it is not possible for government to use commercial cloud computing providers because of the risk of personal data being stored outside the UK. The UK government announced it's G-cloud initiative, creating a private cloud for government departments, in the Digital Britain report in June, enabling government departments to overcome the security concerns of utilising cloud computing resources.

Vendor lock-in, caused by a lack of standards between vendors, was also cited by several speakers as a cause for concern as the move towards cloud computing intensifies. Even though standards making it easier to move between providers may not be in the immediate interests of vendors, it was recognised by most speakers as an important factor in building consumer trust.

Cloud computing is currently both 'important and immature' according to Laurent Lachel, Research Director at Ovum. The number of different vendors will inevitably shrink as the industry matures, ultimately leading to possible anti-trust issues, forecast by the Economist last month.

Whatever the outcome for cloud computing, this is an IT offering with significant business benefits and implications, and a definite trend to watch.

Jennifer Smith is co-founder of OneIS, providers of hosted information management solutions for small businesses.  Jennifer is a qualified, chartered librarian with over ten years experience in library and information management.

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