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Firms are looking to the cloud to support IT delivery models like software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). And some argue many firms are moving to an everything-as-a-service (EaaS) model using the cloud.
Some of the services that can be supported by the cloud include cloud data storage, to deliver a flexible solution for managing and retrieving data over the internet on a pay-as-you-go basis.
There are also cloud-based on-demand identity and access management services, that make it easier and more cost-effective for enterprise clients to securely extend and manage user access to cloud-based resources, while maintaining control over policies and governance.
In addition, there is security-as-a-service, to give companies the ability to quickly and easily add robust security services and avoid purchasing expensive equipment.
And enterprise mobility-as-a-service allows on-the-go workers to quickly and securely access their corporate networks, while making it easier for IT managers to manage a global mobile workforce.
A central role in developing IT organisations
Analysts see the cloud as playing a central role in the future development of IT organisations and their role within businesses.
Analyst Gartner says a clear linkage of IT investments and business results will become "an imperative" for IT organisations.
IT, says Gartner, faces increased levels of scrutiny from stakeholders both internal and external. All parties expect greater transparency, and meeting this demand will require that IT becomes more tightly coupled to the levers of business control, it says.
The analyst says that by 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25 per cent of labour hours associated with IT services. Cloud computing, says Gartner, will hasten the use of tools and automation in IT services, as firms move towards self-service, automated provisioning and metering, for instance, to deliver services.
Cutting the costs
Many organisations are already using the cloud to economically provide self-service human resources, so when staff want to book time off, they log into apps hosted in the cloud; or when potential recruits want to apply for a job at a firm, again, they apply through a hosted app in the cloud.
And with the rise of "utility computing" via the cloud, individual company departments can be directly billed for the cloud-hosted apps they use, instead of one big budget being thrown at a central IT department.
This means IT staff can get on with developing strategies that aid the bottom line, rather than having to deploy, manage and support hundreds or even thousands of apps on the corporate network.
Cloud computing can drastically reduce costs for new companies and also expand mobile capabilities.
Access to the networked resources provided by the clouds enables companies to enter markets without having to meet the capital costs of building their own computer infrastructure.
The cloud can also play a major role in addressing the explosion in the number of mobile devices with limited storage capacity being launched onto the market and being adopted by business.
The data generated by these devices, whether it be emails, spreadsheets, databases, presentations or videos, can be backed up in the cloud, and then accessed when required.
The cloud is not something that firms should worry about. It is something they should just get on with as its business adoption is inevitable. Although many cloud deployments may fail, the experience should be put to good use.
Through testing and failure or success, organisations will learn what it really takes to operate a cloud environment.
The current and predicted spending by businesses on cloud IT architectures illustrates why there is no going back.
According to analyst IHS Technology, the increasing move on the part of enterprise businesses to move their IT services, applications and infrastructure to a cloud-based architecture will cause cloud revenues to surge by a factor of three from 2011 to 2017.
Global business spending for infrastructure and services related to the cloud will reach an estimated $174.2 billion (£104 billion) this year, up a hefty 20 per cent from $145.2 billion (£87 billion) in 2013, says IHS.
And in a sign of the market's vigour, says IHS, spending will enjoy continued strong growth during the next few years. By 2017, enterprise spending on the cloud will amount to a projected $235.1 billion (£140.7 billion), triple the $78.2 billion (£46.8 billion) in 2011.
Jagdish Rebello, an IHS analyst, says, "With the cloud touching nearly every consumer and enterprise around the globe, spending for cloud-related storage, servers, applications and content will be dedicated toward building a framework that is rapidly scalable, highly dynamic, available on-demand and requiring minimal management."
He says, "The robust growth will come as an increasing number of large and small enterprises move more of their applications to the cloud, while also looking at data analytics to drive new insights into consumer behaviour."
Bloated on-premise systems
Another reason that organisations are turning to the cloud is that they are fed up with 'bloated' on-premise systems that have expensive functionality that is not needed.
IT services firm Damovo commissioned research among 100 UK IT directors and found that 72 per cent think their on-premise applications are becoming "too bloated".
Many find that some functionality of on-premise applications is unnecessary for their needs and only adds to the cost of upgrading to the latest version.
As a result, they are turning to the cloud in order to regain control over the make-up of the software packages they deploy, with 62 per cent saying that cost reduction is the main driver behind cloud adoption.
"Organisations are increasingly finding they have a whole host of application functionality that goes unused," says Alex Williams, operations director for Damovo UK & Ireland. "Unfortunately, businesses end up paying for this functionality when they upgrade to the latest version, whether they want it or not."
Cloud services are the natural remedy, giving businesses back control over which functions they buy and cutting down the bloat in on-premise applications.