Chapter 12: Where Cloud Computing is Heading – Cloud Computing: Assessing the Risks


The industry enthusiasm for Cloud Computing indicates that it addresses elements of IT that suffer from fundamental dissatisfaction.

IT is commonly regarded as unresponsive, slow-moving, expensive and difficult to work with.

Cloud Computing, with its rapid provisioning, pay-as-yougo pricing and user self-service, addresses these pain points.

Any time a new solution neatly addresses the shortcomings of a given situation, it seems obvious that it will be embraced immediately.

The overwhelming enthusiasm directed toward Cloud Computing suffers from only one reservation: security. Many IT professionals react to the promise of Cloud Computing with a ‘yes, but’ attitude. ‘Yes, Cloud Computing sounds great, but what about knowing if my company’s data is safe from access by provider personnel?’

This book has been devoted to addressing the numerous concerns people have about Cloud Computing that commonly are labelled as ‘security’, but often fall into other areas like governance and compliance. We have taken a comprehensive approach and addressed all of the topics that people lump under the topic of ‘Cloud security’. We hope our analysis has, if not solved the issues under these topics, at least provided mechanisms, so that they may be approached and mitigated sufficiently, such that IT organisations can move forward with their Cloud Computing initiatives.

This poses a question: what will Cloud Computing look like when the issue of security is no longer considered a reason to delay moving forward?

Here are a few predictions.

Much greater growth in Cloud Computing adoption than anyone predicts  One of the paradoxes of life is that, as something gets less expensive, one uses more of it. So much so that, despite the reduced cost, overall spend grows due to increased consumption volumes. This will certainly pose a challenge to IT organisations and their parent companies. Assumptions about the appropriate IT budget (‘Our industry spends 3% of revenues on IT’) will be rethought as less-expensive computing fosters vastly increased use. Staffing levels in IT organisations are likely to grow as business units seek to fund new initiatives because of the convenience and cost-effectiveness of Cloud Computing.

Scale challenges infrastructure  The boom in computing described above will be accompanied by an enormous growth in scale. More network traffic, more computing and especially more storage will cause many companies to outgrow their data centres. Look to Cloud providers to continue to build gigantic data centres to support customers who have burst beyond the walls of their internal computing environments.

Increased focus on IT costs  Earlier, we noted that most IT organisations are unable to evaluate their true cost of providing service due to the fact that budgets are commonly distributed among different organisations: facilities, IT, finance, even HR. The difficulty of bringing the total costs into a single comprehensive budget means it is extremely difficult for IT to create an accurate picture of the cost of providing a fine-grained service, like the monthly cost of a single gigabyte of storage. Cloud providers, on the other hand, have built their businesses on fine-grained services and transparent pricing. Business consumers of IT services are likely to compare the two providers and insist that IT offer the same type and transparency of pricing. This will cause IT to perform a complete rethink of budgeting, pricing and offerings. A side effect of this business-unit pressure is that IT will move to standardised offerings delivered through automation. Business users seeking customised solutions will find steep premiums tacked on to their bill to support personalised service.

IT becomes the business  The reduced cost and associated growth of IT will extend into solutions aimed at mobile devices and new types of business offerings. IT will move from a role of automating internal business processes to implementing new business initiatives. IT will finally get its wish of a seat at the table; in fact, IT may be at the head of the table.

Mixed environments call for comprehensive security solutions  Privacy requirements, enormous growth and cost pressure will all force IT to move to a new perspective on computing environments. Internal and external environments will be considered equal, with the decision of where to deploy an application driven by an assessment of security needs, easy scalability requirements and TCO. IT organisations will seek security solutions that can comfortably span both internal and external environments and provide a comprehensive solution.

The history of IT has been remarkable. Ever cheaper, always being delivered in smaller form factors, being applied to new problems and forever confounding practitioner assumptions and projections. Cloud Computing is squarely within this tradition and represents the latest platform revolution. No one can know with certainty what will become of Cloud Computing, but it seems safe to say that it will be just as unpredictable as its computing forbears. Thomas Watson, Jr., CEO of IBM, once famously predicted that the total global market for computers would be five. Five!

From our perspective, it seems likely that all of the predictions about Cloud Computing are likely to fall just as short as Watson’s prediction in terms of accuracy – and just as revolutionary as what really transpired in the computing industry.

Thank you!