What is the cloud computing scenario for 2012?

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Cloud isn’t a buzzword any more. In fact it’s become so entrenched that it has its own myths. And they’re already being exploded.

Take the idea that emerging markets aren’t suited to the cloud for instance. That’s bullshit. Emerging market countries have been interested in cloud for years. And that’s because everyone in the world is interested in the cloud.

That’s just one example that Gartner managing vice president Daryl Plummer says is shaking the foundations of business, technology and people.

For all we now about the cloud however, it’s definition is still incredibly flexible. Some things can be taken as a given. The cloud is not a competitor to your data centre for instance, we all use the cloud today in some form.

A lot of how anyone defines the cloud depends on what they want to get from it. Think about it like a restaurant. You have to know what you want to do with cloud, otherwise you can’t use it. You can’t just make yourself generically cloud-ready.

That’s like buying a treadmill and never using it. It’s completely pointless unless you actively decide that you want to get fit or use it for weight loss.

It’s also becoming increasingly clear that there are three very definite levels of cloud service: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Product as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Interestingly, it’s the first of these that is growing the fastest, driven by companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace. In fact Gartner predicts that the it will grow 49% in the next two or three years.

A number of these companies were avoiding the cloud like the plague a couple of years ago. Now with products such Office 365, Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer’s statement that “we’re all in on cloud” seems less like something designed to make PR people happy than an actual business strategy.

One reason that traditional leaders like Microsoft are doing so well in the cloud is because are following lead of innovators. That means they have the chance to do it better, do it right.

Clouds don’t grow on trees you know

Just because the big names you’ve come to trust are entering the cloud, doesn’t mean it’ll instantly turn your business around.

“‘Is Cloud computing cheaper and does cloud computing cost me less?’ are two very different things says Plummer. It could be expensive to put a part of your business on the cloud, but it could save you more in the long run. On the other hand it cold work out the other way round.

That said, Plummer reckons it’s becoming obvious that cloud services reduce complexity. “There are some things you should leave it to the experts”, he says. “We don’t run electricity companies because we don’t have to”.

Achieving the impossble

Plummer also believes that cloud computing has been a major boon to innovation. It allows you to do things that were impossible to do before. he points to example of Amazon, which had no intention of scaring the crap out of the publishing industry when it started. Hell when Jeff Bezos was running the company out of his garage he can’t have imagined that Amazon’s own problems with the constraints of the cloud would result in its own innovative cloud computing product Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

It’s not infallible

While the cloud computing has massive advantages, we’re all having to come to terms with the fact that it isn’t necessarily the second coming it was hyped up to be at times.

The are of course security issues. Then again, that has always been a problem. But as is the case with anything in tech, it shouldn’t stop us from doing what we want to do. We just have to be smarter about how we do those things. “Yes the cloud is secure, and no the cloud is not secure,”says Plummer. One things pretty certain though “cloud providers are much better at security than you are”.

That said, even the biggest companies fall sometime but, Plummer notes, that just means we have to be prepared. “If you assume they won’t go down, then you’ll be hurt,” he says. Most visible cloud failures happen because they’re big companies.

Netflix for instance was prepared for Amazon’s 2011 failure. It designed its strategy around what it was going to do in the cloud and worked around it.

Prepare for court

Finally Plummer reckons that a massive lawsuit involving a cloud company is bound to happen at some point. It’s unclear who’s likely to be involved but this is the tech world we’re talking about, so it will happen.

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