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5 IT System Outsourcing Trends Headed for the Clouds

|Aug 10|magazine15 min read

Cloud computing trends shift as quickly as the wind in today’s highly competitive information technology industry. Staying informed of the latest developments can significantly reduce data infrastructure maintenance costs and, therefore, free up specialists’ time for innovation.

The adoption of cloud computing is a foregone conclusion. The shape the cloud will take is a whole other story, altogether. At Business Review Canada, our tech experts combed through the mountains of theories and speculation saturating the discourse. We separated truth from myth. Here are the top 5 newest cloud computing capabilities every business should be aware of:

1. Software-as-a-service (Saas)

The original hype surrounded Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas). Iaas allowed companies to access remote datacenters, like a utility, without having to be concerned about actual hardware requirements. Iaas can be considered the birth of cloud computing. The computing giants like IBM, Google and Amazon have and continue to dominate the market. However, independent software vendors (ISV) are now realizing the potential of applications as a subscription service.

ISVs develop business applications designed to facilitate operations either on a mass scale or in niche markets. Microsoft and Oracle are the most visible in terms of mass appeal applications. Companies like salesforce.com and Kronos are creating apps that operate across multiple platforms, providing more value through greater capability. Take for instance Geminare Inc.’s new iPhone application iCloudRecovery. This new recovery software enables users to manage entire IT systems on-the-go. The big dogs also see the potential and have started alliance programs to partner with the smaller ISVs.

2. Platform-as-a-service (Paas)

A natural evolution of Software-as-a-service, Paas enables the creation of the most specialized form of web software applications in that each element is design by an organization to serve that organization’s needs. Traditionally, designing web applications required a team of specialists with knowledge of and the ability to integrate an operating system, a web server, a database and a programming language. Such a highly skilled and synergistic in-house endeavor proved costly.

Paas offers business an integrated environment to create applications to meet unique needs via a solution stack, which bundles the operating system, web server, database and programming language. Staying true to the pay-as-you-go appeal of cloud computing, Paas eliminates costly initial investments and provides a blank canvas for the design, testing and deployment of the application. While Google App Engine, Windows Azure and Amazon EC2 offer paas, smaller ISVs like Commensus and Heroku are starting to make noise. The market remains up for grabs, though.

3. Hybrid to Private Cloud

Much like companies are starting to take ownership of cloud computing applications in terms of design, creation and deployment, companies are starting to optimize overall cloud computing operations based on internal priorities. Large companies, such as Canadian Tire, with expendable capital will see the benefit of using external or public clouds for customer relationship management because of the open source capabilities. Those same companies, however, will embrace an internal cloud to protect sensitive information and proprietary data. The hybrid cloud will be particularly popular among retailers.

Many executives will abandon any cloud susceptible to external tampering and adopt a purely private cloud. While not as cost effective as completely outsourcing cloud management—a sophisticated IT team will be necessary—to ensure operations. As Amazon and Google offset costs through the pay-as-you-go model, companies operating private clouds and that have sophisticated teams could rent out their services and datacenters. Companies like Ubuntu and Rackspace provide software for companies to create internal clouds.

4. Security

Probably the most widely discussed drawback to cloud computing is the perceived lack of security. With management done remotely and data stored on foreign hardware, the perception is that propriety information is for the taking. Although there is some validity to the argument, the threats are not as imminent.

Even so, IBM has been contracted by the U.S. Air Force to develop the most secure cloud computing infrastructure capable of supporting defense and intelligence networks. The infrastructure will not only supports large-scale networks, but meet rigorous security standards and the government's Information Assurance guidelines for all networks. An advanced "stream computing" analytics will be a key design component. If IBM can successfully produce a cloud that meets U.S. Air Force standards, international business will no longer have security concerns.

5. Infrastructure Automation

Positioning itself to become the go-to cloud provider, Elastra has created an automated model application that can rapidly deploy software required by enterprise by creating reusable models of application infrastructure. Doing so will foster best practices among IT groups through a shared repository of reusable models and reduce development costs by modeling systems that seamlessly integrate open source, commercial, and existing software packages.

Instead of adapting and creating new applications, Elastra can synchronize applications intended for singular platforms across multiple platforms. Estratra is literally incorporating the principles of cloud computing—flexibility, elasticity and scalability—into its products and services.