Gartner, Google discuss future of cloud computing

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Gartner, Google discuss future of cloud computing

The rise of data-intensive applications, data centre pressures, and mobile and networking technologies is driving a business uptake of cloud computing, Gartner analysts say.

Speaking at Gartner’s Emerging Trends and Technologies Roadshow in Sydney this week, VP and Gartner Fellow David Cearley explained that the Web is no longer an application, but has become a platform for building new applications.

Gartner predicts that by 2012, 80 percent of Fortune 1000 enterprises will be paying for some cloud computing services, and 30 percent will be paying for cloud computing infrastructure services.

New Web technologies are expected to yield new services, platforms, utilities, and business models for businesses and service providers.

Cearley used the example of Amazon, which began as an electronic bookstore in the mid-1990s, and has grown to provide Amazon Web Services including a platform for other eCommerce vendors within a Web 2.0 setting.

“Just as the Web builds on the Internet, the Cloud builds on the Web,” Cearley said.

By providing programmatic access to Web-based services on which applications and businesses may be built, cloud computing is expected to yield cost savings for IT functions that are large-scale, common and standard.

But the outlook for cloud computing isn’t all clear skies just yet.

While some cloud computing providers tout free services, Cearley noted that many such services are subsidised through advertising, or by selling users’ data as “business intelligence”.

Furthermore, some cloud computing technologies still are immature, which may lead to problems in service management and usability.

Cearley highlighted the cultural issue of trust as a major barrier to widespread adoption of cloud computing.

“Cloud-based services probably don’t meet the needs of enterprise computing today,” he said.

“[But] over the next five years, we expect them to creep into mainstream use, right at the same time that current enterprise computing models run their course.”

Paul Slakey, who is Google’s Head of Enterprise Sales, Asia Pacific and Latin America, agrees that trust is an issue for businesses looking to venture into cloud computing.

Speaking at the Transaction 2.0 conference at CeBIT last week, Slakey described discussions with businesses considering the adoption of Google’s hosted applications and services.

“It tends to be a complex sale,” he said, adding that adoption tends to be driven by a “visionary”, but contested by other managers and employees of the company.

“There are cost advantages and so on, but in the end, it comes down to trust,” he said.

“We understand that SaaS companies like Google need to earn your trust, and we understand that it’s not going to happen overnight.”

To build a trustworthy reputation among enterprise customers, Google will undergo audits to obtain SAS 70-1 and SAS 70-2 certification, Slakey said.

While he described cloud computing as a vibrant market that will incubate a broad range of competitors, Slakey expects the market for on-premise software to remain.

“This is a new wave, but it’s not going to replace the existing,” he said. “On-premise software is not going to go away.”

To address the demand for on-premise data storage and offline access, Google is working on developing offline functionality for its range of Web-hosted applications.

“We’re very close to having offline Gmail,” Slakey said, adding that Google employees currently have access to an internal-only version of offline Gmail.

Gartner’s Cearley named Amazon, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft, and IBM as vendors that are leading the charge towards computing in the cloud.

Just as Microsoft won a majority of the software market share by establishing Windows as the primary ecosystem for Independent Software Vendors to develop new software and applications, Web service providers are battling for a lion’s share of the cloud computing market, he said.

“Vendors are battling for ultimate control of business computing in the next decade,” he said.

“With the advent of SOBAs [Service-Oriented Business Architecture] and related technologies, each camp and its current and potential clients will make monumental decisions that cannot be reversed.”

“Proper use of the infrastructure stack and related Web services will be key for
‘megavendor’ success,” he said.

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