There's no doubt that cloud computing is one of the biggest buzzwords in the IT industry today. While there is still some confusion as to what exactly cloud computing entails, the concept is based on having large pools of computer systems sharing an IT infrastructure. Research firm Gartner defines cloud computing as "a style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided 'as a service' using Internet technologies to multiple external customers."
According to analyst outfit IDC, "cloud services" are the consumer and business products, services and solutions that people access and consume in real-time over the Internet. Cloud services are typically easy to set up, with the customer not having to worry about the complications of implementation. The services are also based on a "pay-as-you-go" or subscription model to make them more affordable for various business types and sizes.
Cloud computing itself is all about the products and services that are used to support the development and deployment of cloud services. IDC says these offerings include:
- IT infrastructure that is able to scale to high volumes while keeping in mind ease and economy;
- application software like collaboration tools and business applications that are designed specifically for accessing the cloud;
- application development and deployment software used to create and support new cloud services;
- management software that supports the monitoring and setup of cloud services; and
- IP networks that connect end users to the cloud and support all of the above.
Cloud Computing Companies
While Amazon.com, Google and eBay are all classic examples of cloud services born in the dotcom era, Microsoft has also made some headway in this area, making some of its traditionally onsite applications, such as Office, also available online. Salesforce.com and NetSuite are two online-accessed CRM applications. And Dell, Yahoo!, Intuit and VMWare are all on the list of companies that have been hiring people for cloud computing-specific positions.
Cloud computing is also hot in the storage arena, where customers are able to store data and documents online without having to worry about the constant accumulation of storage networks and physical servers.
There are also opportunities for companies in various industries to branch out into their own cloud computing efforts. IDC expects the following industries to take advantage of the new customer, growth and profitability potential available through cloud computing:
Is Cloud Computing Right for Everyone?
A pure cloud computing model is not always the right choice in every situation. You're always going to come across instances where an IT infrastructure needs to run on its own dedicated server or within a private data center. Or sometimes, a company with a remote office in some other part of the world will prefer to have an application installed locally at its main office, but allow the remote users to access the same application over the Web.
Some companies, such as Microsoft, are coming up with hybrid solutions where users can pick and choose how they would like to access applications – in the cloud, on-premise, or a combination of both.