Many CIOs view cloud computing as their salvation when tasked with doing more with less, as it promises to deliver IT services to subscribers at a lower cost. It also underscores the fact that the network has become a critical computing asset.
Ask a pool of IT professionals for a definition of cloud computing, and users are more than likely to get several different answers. Some define it narrowly as "accessing virtual servers over the Internet".
Tertia Labuschagne, business development and strategy manager for network integration at Dimension Data MEA, sees it as a broader, all-encompassing term.
“Computing changes over time make the underlying network ever more critical. Cloud computing is a highly scalable method of delivering computing and application resources as a service over a network, which may be the Internet and infrastructure not owned by the organisation.”
The hype in the industry currently focuses mostly around platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which are key cloud platform offerings. Organisations can outsource their enterprise application processing to cloud providers without having to concern themselves any longer with idle CPUs or unused drive space.
The cloud service provider then charges only for services utilised on a "pay per usage" basis.
Labuschagne believes there is still tremendous knowledge to be gained and education that needs to take place before cloud computing revolutionises and reaches a level of maturity.
“Network traffic patterns have changed more in the last five years than in the last 25 years, but computing fabrics will place even more demand onto networks that are probably not ready to cope with the current traffic loads. Computing and networking are merging into seamless ‘computing fabrics’ where the network is critical to successfully delivering application services.
“Networks and network clouds will need ongoing investment to ensure they are robust enough to handle cloud computing. Most importantly, the network in the data centre is the foundation and it is critical to enable cloud computing. We are already starting to see unified fabrics or the converging of networks within data centres to support data and storage traffic,” says Labuschagne.
With a solid network in the data centre, organisations can then start building an internal cloud where applications move in a largely automated infrastructure. With a true cloud-based business application architecture, organisations can begin to outsource less critical applications with low expectations on service quality to cloud providers.
Cloud computing is more than a buzzword and is set to transform the business landscape in the next decade. As with any new technology, organisations need to approach it with caution. So, while the industry is maturing, don’t get caught in the rain.