Business Week’s Big Cloud Computing Article

The June 15th, 2009 issue of Business Week published a rather robust article on the emergence of cloud computing and what it means for the future of business and the IT industry. This article, written by Steve Hamm, does an exceptional job highlighting the application of cloud platform technology in the marketplace as seen in the examples listed below:

  1. Avon – Will equip 150,000 sales leaders with cloud-based computing systems accessible via smartphone and PC. Platform will keep sales leaders informed on performance of sales representatives, order quantities and overdue payments. “The idea is to increase the sales and efficiency of Avon’s distribution system.”
  2. Virtual Personal Assistants – Siri, a Silicon Valley based start up is using cloud technology and artificial intelligence to create applications that help people with travel arrangements and entertainment. The company plans to soon move into developing applications that are tailored for business solutions. The article gives the following as an example: A sales person asks the application to put together the best sales pitch  she can make for a prospective client. The Virtual assistant then draws on information from a variety of sources to formulate the pitch.
  3. OptumHealth – Utilizing eSync, the company’s cloud driven system, can improve service quality and reduce costs by identifying gaps in care and helping people to respond to minor issues before they become emergency problems.

Luring the unsuspecting in with a sleek name and big promises, cloud computing seems to be the answer to all of our problems. But is it without its own challenges and risks? Gartner’s article, titled “Seven Cloud Security Risks” helps to bring everyone back down from the cloud and see the big picture: that cloud-based computing is by no means free of its own challenges. Here are a few examples they list:

  1. Data segregation. Data in the cloud is typically in a shared environment alongside data from other customers. Encryption is effective but isn’t a cure-all. “Find out what is done to segregate data at rest,” Gartner advises. The cloud provider should provide evidence that encryption schemes were designed and tested by experienced specialists. “Encryption accidents can make data totally unusable, and even normal encryption can complicate availability,” Gartner says.
  2. Recovery. Even if you don’t know where your data is, a cloud provider should tell you what will happen to your data and service in case of a disaster. “Any offering that does not replicate the data and application infrastructure across multiple sites is vulnerable to a total failure,” Gartner says. Ask your provider if it has “the ability to do a complete restoration, and how long it will take.”
  3. Long-term viability. Ideally, your cloud computing provider will never go broke or get acquired and swallowed up by a larger company. But you must be sure your data will remain available even after such an event. “Ask potential providers how you would get your data back and if it would be in a format that you could import into a replacement application,” Gartner says.

While these challenges are very real, industry experts are working very hard to tackle these issues and provide platforms that are low risk for users. As an emerging technology cloud computing must be tested, praised, patronized, tested, and praised some more.

Here is what Industry research leader Gartner has to say about cloud computing and the IT industry:

  1. The IT industry is expected to shrink 3.8% in 2009, but forecasters have high hopes for portables, wireless networks and cloud computing over the next few years.
  2. Gartner predicts the market for cloud products and services to increase from $46.4 billion to $150.1 billion in 2013.

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