>The Future of Cloud Computing

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Cloud computing—“a style of computing where IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’, allowing users to access technology-enabled services ‘in the cloud’ without knowledge of, expertise with, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports them.” (Wikipedia)

In an article in InfoWorld, 7 April 2008, called What Cloud Computing Really Means, Galen Gruman states that “Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT capabilities.”

What’s an example of cloud computing?

An example of cloud computing is Google Apps that provides common business applications (similar to traditional office suits) online.”

How does cloud computing work?

In cloud computing, resources–either hardware or software–are available on-demand—as needed.

In the case of on-demand software, application service providers (ASPs) offer software as a service (SaaS). And for on-demand hardware or IT infrastructure (i.e. virtual data center capabilities such as servers or storage), the offering takes the form of utility computing. In both cases, technology resources are served up on a pay-as-you-go or metered basis, similar to the way a public utility would charge for electricity, oil/gas, telephone, water, and so on.

The cloud computing model is similar to service oriented architecture where there is a service provider and consumer, and here the Internet functions the basic service broker.

Cloud computing is has a basis in technology virtualization in which service providers “hide the physical characteristics of computing resources from their users [consumers].” (Wikipedia)

What are the major advantages of cloud computing?

Cost—one of the big advantages of this computing model is that the upfront IT investment cost is little to none, since the IT assets are in essence being rented.

Scalability—customers have the ability to use more resources when they have a surge in demand and can scale back or turn off the spigot when the resources are not needed.

Flexibility—As IT capabilities get updated by the service provider, consumers in the cloud model can make immediate use of them and benefit sooner than if they had to stand up the capabilities themselves.

Mission focus—The enterprise can stay focused on core mission and mission support capabilities and in essence easily outsource business support functions, where the service provider is responsible for enabling more generic (not strategic or differentiators) business capabilities.

What are the enterprise architecture implications?

Cloud computing can play an important role in focusing IT solutions on strategic mission requirements, simplifying and standardizing our IT infrastructures by outsourcing capabilities, utilizing a services oriented architecture (SOA) model where common business services are served up by providers and consumed by the enterprise, and more effectively managing costs.

What is the future of cloud computing?

Obviously, there are security implications, but as Galen Gruman states: “as SOA and virtualization permeate the enterprise, the idea of loosely coupled services running on an agile, scalable infrastructure should make every enterprise a node in the cloud. It’s a long-running tend with a far-out horizon. But among big metatrends, cloud computing is the hardest one to argue with in the long term.

>On Demand Software and Enterprise Architecture

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The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 19 September 2007 reported that SAP, the German technology giant (and world’s largest business software company—especially known for its enterprise resource planning software), will be offering on demand software to help capture more business among faster growing small and medium size firms. The advantage of this internet based appplication service model is that smaller companies who don’t have the money to purchase the otherwise pricey software, can now purchase on a pay as you go subscription service model.

Interestingly, the WSJ article does not identify this model as an application service provider (ASP), which is a business that provides computer-based services to customers over a wide area network, even though this is exactly what it is!

In general, there are a number of benefits touted to a organization using ASP services, and these are:

  • The ASP service provider owns, operates, and mainains the software and servers.
  • The ASP service provider adheres to service level agreement for availability, accessibility, and security.
  • The ASP provider ensures regular updates to the application software
  • Costs are spread on a pay as you go basis.

However on the downside, using ASP model limits (or excludes) your ability as a customer to customize the software or to integrate it with other non-ASP systems. Additionally, the customer organization may experience a general sense of loss of control by “outsourcing” the application, underlying technology infrastructure, and data store to an outside vendor.

ASP were a big deal around the turn of the 21st century when “the ASP Industry Consortium was formed in May 1999 by 25 leading technology companies. Founding companies included AT&T Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., GTE Corp., IBM Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., and UUNET Technologies.” (adapted from http://ecommerce.hostip.info)

For some reason, ASP seems to have become a “dirty word”. Even the latest market estimates for ASPs in Wikipedia dates back to 2003. Also, a quick Google search for applications service providers brings up a lot of information dated between 1999-2003. Even the current aspindustry.org website looks like crap. Apparently ASPs have all but fallen off the map in the last 4 years!

From a User-centric EA standpoint, the (ASP) model for on demand software is an option that should be carefully considered, based on the pros and cons for your particular organization, in developing target architecture for the enterprise. Indeed, many applications (like SAP) are being deployed using the ASP web application model, and we can expect this service to grow as an option, whether or not it is called an ASP in the future. Hey, maybe that’s what happened to A-S-P – it got transposed to S-A-P!