Dec 9, 2010

Darwinism in the Data Center: Evolution of the Cloud


Cloud computing has quickly moved from a distant vision to an imminent reality over the last five years. As with many large scale technology and business shifts, the trajectory of its progression has not always been obvious, but today, consumption of infrastructure and software services is growing dramatically.

A recent article by Barron’s indicates large companies are making the switch, to ‘private clouds’ in particular, much faster than financial analysts expected. Even highly risk-sensitive industries, such as financial services and healthcare, are making rapid moves toward cloud computing – challenging previous assumptions that security concerns would hold them back.

With the opening up of the cloud market, more competitors will emerge, along with more choices for both enterprises and consumers, bringing to mind a number of interesting dynamics. Among them – how will cloud vendors differentiate their products? What criteria will customers use to base their decisions? Will clouds become interopable?

I believe we will see a prototypical cycle where the initial focus on convenience and utility is quickly followed by an era of cost reductions and demand for value-added services that optimize performance and availability. Similarly, cloud providers will face intense pressure to compete on the merits of their SLAs, resulting in more robust service guarantees for customers. As increased outsourcing of IT services continues, partnerships between cloud and managed hosting providers will emerge to enable deeper and more automated integration capabilities – and to further their value propositions.

Like other disruptive technologies, the transition to cloud is beginning with experimentation for many enterprises. Simple migration of non-mission critical applications – such as software development – for evaluation in the cloud; prototyping of new applications; and augmentation of test infrastructure are common use cases today. This low-risk approach can help enterprises understand whether the performance, availability, usability and support provided by their chosen cloud service will meet their needs – before moving forward with a full-scale cloud deployment.

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