Cloud computing means mobile computing means ’Big Data‘ – ALLAN BEHRENS on the impact of the IT evolution “Cloud” to our businesses.
It’s important to remember that as with many past IT developments, “Cloud” is an evolution and not a revolution; it’s also a paradigm not a single technology. In practical terms, what Cloud delivers is more simplified provisioning of flexible IT; enticing companies with the promise of reduced infrastructure and administrative IT overheads and at the same time enabling more cost-effective (often so-called “open”) platform-neutral applications with some interesting payment models such as subscription and rental. While many talk of Cloud in terms of the value it delivers in the form of applications, it’s fundamentally about the evolutionary delivery model of internal (tenanted or private) or remote (hosted or community) IT; indeed often a mix of the two. Its application depends on your needs and, of course, your situation. Those in the IT industry talk of the Cloud as if it’s one size fit all. In fact one must consider that there are two important parties to the ‘Cloud’ experience. One revolves around its provisioning and supply, and one for its (notably software applications or ‘Apps’) consumption.Cloud enables companies to consider IT as a service similar to that of, say, water or power. Turn it up when demand dictates or down when it’s surplus to requirements. One example of this would be the ability to provide collaboration services, project management and design tools to a new project team. The Cloud allows us to deliver these services to the team in minutes as opposed to historical days of old, and billing (if necessary) by usage, storage, compute performance or whatever best fits the business’ need.
The user and the Cloud
While Cloud changes the way that IT is provisioned, what about the user? IBM for one predicts that there will be 76 billion mobile applications downloaded in 2014 (against an estimated 43 billion in 2012). Mobile computing is a phenomenon that’s a reflection of what Cloud allows IT suppliers to do with both hardware and software technologies. The Cloud underpins mobile, giving users pretty much instant access to more usable and transportable applications and data. With consumers leading the way, the ‘App’ era, arguably started by Apple computers, has changed (and continues to change) the way people expect to consume and interact with applications and data. We now expect as norm, simplicity, immediacy and personalization in our IT use. In fact, what has become a phenomenon in our personal lives is now driving the corporate. The era of new lower cost mobile devices and the trend to “bring your own device” (or BYOD) to work is driving some remarkable changes in both corporate and consumer IT and driving some innovative solutions from both new and established software suppliers. Of course this evolution is not without its challenges and topics such as security and compliance remain top of mind especially with regards the business user.With Cloud and mobile computing now starting to dramatically affect our working life, major enterprise suppliers such as SAP, IBM and HP are reinventing their offerings to deliver on-demand infrastructures and applications that provide more usable technologies and new services to businesses; analytics being (just) one worthy of note. Given the exponential growth in digital data that we create and consume, the ability to make better use of digital assets within the business is driving new applications that deliver corporate value from this “Big Data”. We’re seeing a rapidly growing set of use cases that provide real-time analytics in many areas including marketing and social media, business systems, manufacturing and customer service operations.
The engineering and the Cloud Of course, Cloud is also changing the world of design, engineering and operations. Autodesk for one is making a significant push to delivering new Cloud-based services and applications. Not only that, they’re taking their experiences in the consumer space to deliver new mobile (Cloud-based) applications to businesses; delivering a new generation of lifecycle management and design applications as well as simulation and (plant) visualization to a performance often equal or better than that available to desktop users – lowering the overhead cost and increasing the performance for both large and small company users alike. Supporting these efforts, companies such as computer graphics company Nvidia are starting to roll out GPU-accelerated solutions that deliver “PC-accelerated graphics solutions” to both your desktop and mobile devices – all delivered from the Cloud. It’s understandable that some might be skeptical of the practicalities of interacting with large 3D models over the web, but reality says otherwise.The effect of the Cloud on our businesses and everyday lives is significant, but not without its challenges; security and administration being two common areas of concern. On the former, security, most of us rely on banking services delivered by the cloud. Indeed many of us use them on mobile devices in our private lives. The IT industry has had to adapt and continues to evolve solutions that provide confidence in security of public, tenanted and private Clouds. Many in the industry would argue that the security of these is on par if not better than traditional IT infrastructures and their applications. One only needs to look at recent revelations over nefarious government-led corporate cyber-security intrusions to know that IT security concerns are not unique to Cloud. To the point of administration, one may assume that the availability of applications across many more platforms, both mobile and desktop would be a cause for concern. Not so in reality. For one thing, even if the application is used by many thousands of devices across disparate locations, its management in the Cloud, however, is at a ‘single’ source. This means a significant reduction of application administration overhead and updates and fixes performed at the (single) Cloud source immediately benefit the entire user community. Together with an increasing trend to BYOD in the enterprise, we’re also seeing a lot of innovation in management, control and metrics of (remote) devices such as smart phones and tablets; a natural development considering the future landscape of IT and consumer devices. The Cloud era is arguably still in its infancy but its value to customers and end-users alike is significant and (in most cases) proven. Change for change sake, especially in the world of technology, is of no value, and it’s up to each company (and user) to better understand the value and opportunity of technology with, of course, the IT supply community helping them with that process. With Cloud (and mobile) the rate of change is so great that many companies are (perhaps unduly) cautious on take-up. As I and many hundreds of millions like me are proving its value is significant, not only in making IT more pervasive and cost-effective but in simplifying and making more effective our lifestyles and business operations.
I like to think of the evolution of IT less a series of technological steps but more a journey of human ingenuity. In my mind’s eye, more human-like, cognitive computing is where we’re heading and Cloud is a technological stepping stone that facilitates that journey. Ideally data as we know it today should be made invisible to the user; rather the ‘essence’ of any information available (in any form) should be delivered as insights, predictions and advice to the user.