by Yi Ning Lim, marketing specialist at GMO GlobalSign
Cloud computing has become a buzzword in the recent years, with numerous companies providing the technology to enable organizations to access applications over a network to remote computing sites. It delivers on-demand, self-servicing capacity so as to allow users to run applications through a simple administrative console. These consoles would usually be web-based by nature and accessible by things like your web browser.
At the 2nd Annual Cloud Computing World Forum – Asia edition which was just concluded at The Mira, Hong Kong, more than 600 delegates participated in lively discussions regarding cloud adoption as well as case discussions to evaluate the applicability of cloud in their organizations.
Let’s have a quick introduction to cloud and take a look at a few key trends in the industry:
What is Cloud Computing?
Chances are most of us have already encountered cloud browsing through our usage of web-based email services like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail.
Cloud solutions come in three key different flavors, being IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and Saas (Software as a Service). Depending on an organization’s requirements, they may choose the service offering that best suits their needs. With cloud, it is less necessary to own your IT infrastructure, much less your own software. Services can be deployed from the cloud as and when it is needed, like a utility. This translates to cost savings and companies move away from the traditional fixed capacity infrastructure that may exceed or be insufficient to meet their needs.
The Cloud Community Comprises both Small and Big Players
Not just big players like are taking up cloud services in the industry. An increasing number of small and medium businesses have recognized advantages of cloud service adoption. According to a cloud survey in commissioned this year by one of the leading cloud platform providers, OnApp, the strongest uptake of cloud services by businesses is anticipated from web and application developers, with 67 per cent of cloud providers reporting this as the segment expected to drive the greatest growth. According to respondents already offering hosted cloud services, 42 per cent expected to see growth from the broader IT sector, 39 per cent from financial services and 30 per cent from retail customers.
With the cloud, users may have significant cost savings as they shift their data and applications to the cloud. Cloud services are especially attractive as small businesses only need to pay for the resources they utilize and not for the costly hardware like datacenters. This flexibility helps them to free up unnecessary costs associated with running their IT structure and channel it to other purposes. Say farewell to the costly purchase and maintenance of servers and even IT staff.
Governments adopting the use of the Cloud
In addition to small businesses, cloud adoption by governments has been growing in the Asia region. This migration to the cloud helps to meet their operational needs, as well as to reduce costs and increase agility and efficiency. As part of its plans to become the regional hub for information and communications technology, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shared its plans to incrementally adopt the cloud computing model over the next few years to deliver its e-services. Cloud computing will be used to deliver both services to citizens as well as to provide internal services to the government.
Most governments are taking a more cautious approach to cloud, taking into account the security and sovereignty of data, with the Hong Kong government choosing to focus on adoption over a period of time so as to monitor and control the impact of the change. The proposed Government Cloud environment includes an “in-house private cloud” owned and operated by the Government, “outsourced private clouds” comprising facilities dedicated to the Government in secure data centers operated by contractors, and “public clouds” for generic services for which the Government has less control over how the services are provided.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN) Join the Fray
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) also received extensive coverage during the event, as companies highlighted the importance of ensuring that internet speed is able to keep up with data flow and media streaming on websites. With more users requesting content such as HTML, images, software downloads and audio and video, it is vital that web content can be delivered to them via a local server to accelerate website performance.
A CDN works by ensuring that there are CDN points of presence all over the world that can help a website deliver information locally. Previously, CDN has required significant investment in datacenters to provide that local capability. However, companies like OnApp shared that they currently can enable hosts to use spare cloud capacity from other host local CDN points of presence worldwide. This allows them to create a marketplace where CDN capacity can easily be bought and sold on demand, and hosts can create a global CDN without having to spend huge sums investing in global CDN structure.
Streaming live events like sporting events is made possible through the use of CDNs, which speed up the subscriber’s connection to the Internet. This sector is rapidly growing, and telecommunications service providers indicated their interest in launching their own CDNs to transmit the video content. Having their own networks provides them with a unique advantage over traditional CDNs, allowing them to deliver content from a location closer to the end user due to their deep caches, minimizing the distance video data has to travel and ensuring a quicker and more reliable delivery.
Cloud Security Concerns
With the growth of cloud services, applications and storage, attendees shared on their concerns regarding cloud security for both organisations and individuals. Traditional digital certificate solutions and licensing models had to be customised to suit the unique requirements of the cloud, such as its virtualized environments and pay per usage type of model.
Cloud service providers have worked with security providers that can address such issues and ensure that there is no compromise in security. With security solutions that are designed for cloud hosting, application and storage providers, traditional SSL solutions now suit cloud requirements including unlimited certificate issuance, unlimited server licensing, on demand APIs, multi-domain SSL, and much more.
The Rise of the Mobile Cloud
With consumers moving to their smartphones and tablets to access the internet, these handheld devices play an increasingly large part in the user’s work and home lives. The runaway success of the iPhone and the App Store have made mobile applications increasingly attractive and cloud providers have begun to open up their application program interfaces to programmers, making mobile application increasingly attractive to developers. Mobile cloud technologies help to enable more sophisticated mobile apps, offering them to a broader spectrum of mobile subscribers.
With the rise of the mobile cloud, speed, connectivity, safety and efficiency issues regarding our applications and data need to be addressed. While mobile cloud is currently still a new market, the industry players have recognized the potential growth in the industry and how consumer usage is increasingly shifting to smartphones. While it is still early to say if desktop computing will be completely replaced, market trends increasingly show a shift in consumer behavior and the rise of the mobile cloud will play a key role in aiding this shift.
Cloud Infrastructure is not one-size-fits-all for organizations
Companies were keen to understand how they can integrate cloud computing into their IT infrastructure. With the wide array of applications and services available, companies may fall into the trap of blindly buying cloud services without fully understanding their organization’s needs and readiness to adopt cloud computing. Cloud adoption has to be a joint decision between both the business buyers and the IT administrators. Without proper discussions to decide if cloud is used as a cost-savings tools or a profit making mechanism in a company will be a recipe for disaster, resulting in the wrong choices for cloud services and possibly increased costs for the company.
Is Cloud Computing for you?
Cloud computing is definitely gaining momentum within the IT industry. With more players joining the market and providing a dizzying array of services, IT decision makers will need to have a clear understanding of their organizational needs before finding a match in a cloud provider. It is also important to allow the organisation’s employees to have an understanding of how cloud works. As most people are not used to working in and with the cloud, building familiarity and trust with the system takes time.
Start small and let your team take gradual steps to get used to the cloud. Think big and consider its scalability should you want to enter cloud in a big way. Be creative and look for low cost solutions and try out different services before you decide on the service you would like to use. Cloud computing is a long-term investment and it is vital for companies to explore various solutions before selecting the one most suitable for their use. With the industry growing and taking on more players, there is no better time to start making the transition to cloud and preparing your business for the future.
Yi Ning Lim is a marketing specialist at GMO GlobalSign, one of the first Certification Authorities, providing Digital Certificate and credentialing services since 1996. Yi Ning has a diverse background in marketing, finance and human resources, with experience both in the public and private sector.