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Cloud Computing: from hype to reality

CloudFeatures
by Ian Foddering, Cisco UK/IR CTO, 20 Sep 2012Features
Cloud Computing: from hype to reality

For many of us in the IT industry there is a certain feeling that cloud computing is finally taking a grip on UK businesses, more companies seem to be taking the plunge into the cloud and putting a greater number of applications into the cloud.

But how significant is this change and is it reality or just perception? Are we genuinely seeing greater mainstream adoption?

Last year, the cloud landscape was at a tipping point, several years of vendor hype and industry expectation had taken its toll. Despite great promises of cost and efficiency savings, uptake was still limited and reservations remained. Companies were aware of the benefits cloud offered, but were hesitant to move towards full-scale adoption.

However, in 2012 Cisco can confirm that cloud adoption has indeed seen a phenomenal increase, with an average of 31 per cent of all IT applications and services in the cloud, up from just seven per cent in 2011.

Cisco has been watching the development of cloud adoption closely and recently published the second of its annual CloudWatch reports which reveal the opinions on cloud computing amongst IT decision makers within businesses in the UK, across key industries: finance, retail, service providers, healthcare and government.

The Reality of Cloud

When cloud was first introduced, there was an air of industry confusion around what actually constitutes cloud computing, however this initial blur seems to be clearing and cloud is moving up the CXO strategic agenda. This year’s primary driver behind companies adopting cloud services was the reductions in costs. With the hype around the cloud subsiding, the perceptions around using cloud are no longer based on media and vendor messages but are being drawn from actual experiences.

The 2011 hype resulted in a huge amount of expectation on cloud, and glitches or service outages are far less acceptable now. However, most companies’ expectations were exceeded (70 per cent) this year (up from 34 per cent in 2011), and positive experiences like these are now likely to drive further investment in cloud.

Changing Cloud Formations

There is an array of cloud options now available to organisations. It is no longer a simple choice of adopting one type of cloud; companies must ensure the correct cloud service and deployment method is selected to meet their business needs.

To date the growth of cloud adoption appears to have been predominately driven by private cloud, as shown by the fact 54 per cent of private cloud models were deployed this year alone. Hybrid and community clouds still have very comparatively small uptake, but there has been a definite surge of interest in these two models. Community cloud models are particularly topical at the moment, with the introduction of G-Cloud by the government, aiming to dramatically reduce the costs and maintenance of ICT services in the public sector.

Cloud preferences are likely to continue to fluctuate, as the market continues to mature and customers become more confident and shrewd about the choices open to them.

Cloud and Big Data

Big data has been hugely topical in the last few years. It has been highly publicised that all types of organisations are experiencing a data explosion, which is putting strain on IT departments to manage and store this vast amount of data. Big data, has therefore, been a significant driver of cloud adoption as companies struggle with how to store, manage and protect this data.

It is critical for organisations to have instant access to these large quantities of data, to successfully achieve their business objectives. However, this is a major challenge for companies, along with effectively analysing this data. Cloud computing enables companies to overcome these challenges, and it could be argued that cloud computing is in fact increasing the demand for real-time business insights, due to data being accessed and consumed through various devices anywhere, at any time.

The capability of cloud alongside the sheer power of big data analytics represents a fascinating fusion of two innovative IT trends, and the full impact of these two trends has yet to be explored.

Where next?

In the last year the industry has made significant headway in proving that cloud is a safe, reliable and attractive proposition. Security concerns with cloud are still a strong factor in deterring organisations to adopt cloud, however, these fears have decreased dramatically this year. A bigger challenge now is shifting organisational mind-sets and ways of working to make the most of the enormous opportunities that cloud offers.

The number of organisations adopting cloud will no doubt continue to grow over the next few years. However, whilst the future of cloud computing looks very positive, such rapid maturing of a technology is likely to cause some growing pains. As companies branch out to alternative cloud models, it will become even more evident that there is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution.

Cloud can be consumed in multiple service and deployment models to fit individual organisation’s requirements. Whether to adopt cloud is no longer the most important question, but it is now more vital what cloud model you choose for your business, irrespective of what the most popular model is.

Ian Foddering is the Chief Technology Officer and Technical Director for Cisco in the UK and Ireland. Together with his technical teams, his key objective is to work with Cisco’s Customers and Partners to articulate how Cisco’s architectures and solutions can be applied to drive business transformation.

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