Choosing cloud computing solutions and deciding how these solutions might be used, are now key strategic issues for organisations. The benefits offered by cloud computing can lead to competitive advantages. For this reason, cloud computing is not only on the agenda of CIOs but also other executives within organisations (or CxOs).
The major benefit that is typically associated with cloud computing is cost. Studies show that cloud computing can offer massive cost benefits when compared to on-premise alternatives. A Frost & Sullivan study shows that for many organisations, IT costs can be halved when cloud computing alternatives are selected.
But cloud computing offers very significant additional benefits, not least in terms of its ability to make business more agile. In a cloud computing environment, organisations can increase and decrease the number of users of computing resources instantly. They can provision new resources instantly and stop using them instantly. This provisioning is typically automated, further increasing business agility.
In this type of environment, focus is shifted away from IT and towards business services. IT becomes less of a cumbersome weight around the neck of parts of the business and more of a business enabler. Organisations can, for example, decide that they want a service for leave management or sales management and simply provision it instantly rather than having to deal with implementation and the complexities around it.
So why haven’t more organisations chosen to adopt cloud computing alternatives? Well, the first concern expressed by CxOs typically relates to security and privacy. This should not be their major concern. Cloud computing is, in many ways, a much more secure environment than on-premise alternatives. In cloud environments, computing resources reside in datacenters that typically adopt security best practices. In on-premise environments, data is distributed across heterogeneous environments exposing the organisation to many more security risks. Indeed, employees often travel to work and to meetings with laptops. These laptops usually contain valuable data. They can easily be lost, stolen or compromised when not under corporate control. In a cloud environment, much less data is exposed to this risk.
The real issues around which CxOs should focus relate more to performance. For example, if data resides on a different continent, CxOs must consider issues like latency and asymmetry in upload and download speeds. Cloud options need to be evaluated and CxOs need to ensure that they meet performance requirements for specific business processes. If the data is hosted nearby, then, many of these challenges can be addressed.
So, in summary, cloud computing can enable CxOs to arm their employees with tools to undertake their jobs in a much more straightforward manner than before. The resources used can be increased and decreased instantly in line with business requirements. In a cloud centered environment, IT will become commoditised and the role of the CIO with diminish.
In theory, cloud computing is expected to deliver us computing resources in the same way as today’s utilities deliver us power and water. For this reason, organisations will not need to employ the same number of IT professionals. Instead, most IT professionals will work for organisations that deliver computing resources from the cloud.