The cloud shift

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The IT industry is constantly changing, especially when it comes to cloud computing. With a simple Google search of the phrase “cloud shifts,” you can catch a glimpse of the evolution underway.

“Cloud shifts the CIO’s role…”

“CRM shifts to the cloud…”

“Red Hat shifts PaaS…”

“Microsoft shifts…”

When I consider the potential impact of cloud, I begin to realize that this is not just a transitional change – it’s a major shift of huge proportions. History shows that we have gone through these shifts many times before, with cloud being just another evolution. However, this evolution really challenges the foundations of traditional IT. It is not just another evolution of SOA, service integration and service management. Cloud is, after all, just an implementation strategy, right?

IDC and other analysts all agree on the four forces driving IT in the next decade: cloud, mobility, big data and social business. For cloud, each individual segment of the cloud market is growing faster than what was predicted one year ago. Earlier this year, Gartner reported that “cloud computing is expected to grow 19 percent in 2012, becoming a $109 billion industry” by the end of this year and a $208 billion industry by 2016. This is moving very fast indeed!

All of these “shifts” have tremendous implications for the industry in general. Costs are still a major driver for cloud in enterprises because cloud has been positioned by the industry as a cost saver. So, other than costs, what’s driving this current shift?

  • The continuous wave of endless data – IT, in its traditional form, struggles to maintain pace with structured and unstructured data.
  • Declining or flat IT budgets – Many enterprises see IT as a` dead weight; they’re always asking for money, stretched to support the demands of the business and are a large portion of their operational costs.
  • Complexity and risk – Clients are being forced to improve efficiency of service delivery, agility and flexibility, all in an effort to meet the ever changing demand.
  • Lack of responsiveness – Enterprises must improve their ability to react rapidly, adapt to changes in business processes and priorities.

There are many reasons, but I see these as key drivers.

To support these shifts, standards are key. As in the early days of the free software (also known as GNU) and open source movements, there are competing thoughts and approaches. Just as then, many emerging cloud focused open source communities exist today; OpenStack, Eucalyptus and CloudStack, just to name some major ones. All of these open standard bodies, especially OpenStack with its growing membership, holds tremendous prospects for standardizing infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and its interfaces. This is key since the industry risks fragmentation and increased complexity without it. Contributions from IBM and others in this community are extremely important for this shift to continue.

Finally, allow me to touch on the freedom that cloud offers. Someone once said “without economic freedom, we ultimately loose all other freedoms.” Certainly this truism can be applied to many things, but when it comes to the economic freedom a cloud implementation can offer to cost conscious consumers, it makes perfect sense, especially in a world where enterprises are more focused on managing their IT environment, rather than business outcomes.

When I began this blog, I called this “cloud shift” an evolution. However, I think we must consider this shift to have far more reaching implications and consequences. It is more than a simple evolution of IT, and will not be like anything we’ve seen over the last 50 years. It is a true paradigm shift of major proportions which will continue in an unpredictable fashion and be followed by another one, yet unnamed.

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