Business, Technology

Are You up in the Clouds?

Whether you’re a small business owner or a corporate executive, cloud computing is a term to know and the information and technology world is preparing for the cloud’s dynamic growth.

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“The exponential growth of data combined with the proliferation of data-intensive services is a significant contributor to why data storage is expanding at an even greater pace in the cloud,” Stephen Wojtowecz, vice president of Storage Software Development for IBM wrote in eWeek.

“In total, spending on public IT cloud services (excludes private cloud spending) will grow from $16.5 billion in 2009 – a modest, recession-driven haircut from last year’s forecast – to over $55 billion in 2014,” according to analysts at the International Data Corporation (IDC) in its IDC Exchange blog. IDC is a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets. “This is a scorching fast growth of 27% per year,” it added.

A cloud is a shared system. It’s like a huge warehouse, or better yet an electrical power grid. This Web-based system keeps a virtual shared pool of computing resources, such as networks, servers, storage and applications that’s continuously available on a pay-as-you-go basis. These resources become accessible on computers, Smartphones and tablets.  It alleviates the need for data centers, frees up IT resources and allows companies to better respond to its customers’ demands. “Cloud allows a start-up organization to access the same technology infrastructure and support as a Fortune 500 company,” wrote Mark Goodburn and Steve Hill, executives at KPMG, in the Financial Executive magazine.

The concept of the cloud goes as far back as the 1960s, wrote Robert Licursi of the Chicago Examiner, when it was foreseen that computation could be organized as a public utility. The term “cloud” was derived from “the world of telephony.” It wasn’t until 2007 that Google and IBM and a number of universities, such as the University of Chicago, participated in a cloud project.

Cloud service providers have used three models, Goodburn and Hill explained. The Software as a Service (SaaS) incorporates “business operations over a network.” Platform as a Service (PaaS) deploys “customer created applications to a cloud.” Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) rents “processing, storage, network and other computing resources.”

The environment of a cloud may be private — a single organization is hosted by a third party. For instance, a retail company could store and manage its in-store transactions, online purchases and supplier details.

The environment may also be public in which it’s used by many organizations, or it may be a community that has many organizations in particular industries, by geography or along similar supply chains.

Storage clouds still present challenges warned Wojtowecz. “These challenges include managing cost, intense computing power, security and data mobility across cloud providers – all factors that affect quality of service (QOS).”

Several considerations should be made when getting a cloud, such as range of service level options and the performance and costs as it relates to the expected stored data. Also, Wojtowecz advises customers to ensure that it has automated lifecycle management, in-data reduction and advanced application protection.

What are some of the trends you’re seeing in cloud computing? How has cloud computing helped your business? What are some of your concerns? 

Photo credit: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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