What Has The Cloud Really Changed?

CloudWorkspace

The cloud shows a lot of promise but its first implementations are flawed, says Fujitsu’s Bernhard Brandwitte. Users must make careful choices

Few technologies have changed the way in which IT infrastructures are built as rapidly and thoroughly as cloud computing. But its impact goes beyond that: new technologies and delivery models also alter the marketplace and therefore require careful re-evaluation of an organisation’s purchase behavior.

Google’s partners Acer and Samsung have introduced “Chromebooks” – laptops featuring a core Linux operating system custom-made by Google to run its Chrome browser as the only native application, which in turn connects it to the search giant’s office tools.  Microsoft launched Office 365, effectively a “cloud edition” of its quasi-standard productivity suite.

The idea behind both product lines is to convince IT departments that overarching cloud services are better suited to serve their need for flexibility than any local installation ever can. What’s even more important, they seem to pave the way to substantial cost savings. Chromebooks in conjunction with Google Apps for Business or Office 365 linked to individual PCs offer the chance of implementing strict pay-as-you-go models instead of having to pay enormous fees for volume and full version licenses.

Opportunity and dilemma

Upon closer inspection, however, both products lose a lot of their initial appeal. Chromebooks are practically useless without a Wi-Fi or 3G connection, as they only offer limited if any capabilities to work on documents or presentations in offline mode. Office 365 on the other hand requires that subscribers have a recent desktop version of Microsoft Office installed, which takes away from the cost advantage. Moreover, around the same time the company introduced its new online suite, it also warned customers against storing confidential data outside their home countries because there was no guarantee those files would not be accessed by foreign authorities.

This brief rundown pretty much sums up the main dilemma that both customers and hard- and software manufacturers as well as IT services firms are facing: cloud computing solutions are currently emerging everywhere and being adopted at a stunning speed. At the same time, it is quite unclear whether the new ‘IT model’ will deliver on its promise. But it definitely has the market in turmoil.

The impression is further corroborated by a white paper from Fujitsu Technology Solutions, the European arm of Japan’s leading IT supplier and services firm. Entitled “Fujitsu Dynamic Infrastructures: a consistent approach to meeting new IT demands”, it was  intended to give customers insight into the company’s platform strategy, but also includes hints for future purchase decisions.

Based on our own observations and Fujitsu’s findings, we have identified the following trends.

Capacity beats equipment

For the past roughly ten years users as well as hard- and software vendors and IT services firms have shown more interest in acquiring and delivering IT capacities than in buying and selling traditional products. The shift began when web hosting services were introduced, continued through the launch of platforms such as Force.com, and culminates in today’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings. From a buyer’s perspective, this means that enterprises will only buy new equipment if it’s absolutely inevitable. Likewise, many suppliers – hardware manufacturers in particular – have expanded their support and services divisions, thus blurring the lines between themselves and ‘classic’ IT consulting and services companies. Apparently, this trend is persistent.

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