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A Peaceful Leap to Cloud Computing
What are the main business reasons why companies should use cloud computing?

History has many examples of invaders wielding steel swords, repeating rifles, or whatever the latest weapon may be, driving out people who are less well-equipped. Corporate IT departments are starting to go the same way, at the hands of people equipped with cloud computing.

Recently I was at The Open Group conference in Boston. The Open Group is neutral territory with a good view of the IT landscape: An ideal place to watch the conflict develop.

The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group has been focused on the business reasons why companies should use cloud computing. The Work Group released three free white papers at the Boston conference, which I think are worth a closer look: “Strengthening your Business Case for Using Cloud,” “Cloud Buyers Requirements Questionnaire,” and “Cloud Buyers Decision Tree.” Three Work Group members, Penelope Gordon of 1Plug, Pam Isom of IBM, and Mark Skilton of Capgemini, presented the ideas from these papers in the conference’s Cloud Computing stream.

"Strengthening your Business Case for Using Cloud" features business use cases based on real-world experience that exemplify the situations, where companies are turning to cloud computing to meet their own needs. This is followed by an analysis intended to equip you with the necessary business insights to justify your path for using cloud.

The “Cloud Buyers' Decision Tree” can help you discover where cloud opportunities and solutions might fit in your organization. And the "Cloud Buyers' Requirements Questionnaire" will help you identify your requirements for cloud computing in a structured way, so that you can more easily reach the best solution. These two papers contain ideas that will help you assess the potential the cloud has for your organization, and they will be refined as practical decision tools through use out in the field.

Deciding whether, and where, to use cloud computing can be difficult. Trying it out is easy. You can set up a small-scale trial quickly, and the cost is low. You can probably pay by credit card.

Assessing the financial implications for a particular application is relatively straightforward, although there can be unseen pitfalls. But, assessing the risks is more of a problem, particularly because cloud is so new, and the dangers -- where they are known -- may not be understood. And, integrating cloud solutions with each other and with in-house systems can present significant problems. Best practices in these areas are still evolving.

The white papers will help you reach these decisions, and understand where cloud is a good fit for businesses. Today, it is often a good fit, but there are many situations where it is not the best solution. These situations will become less common as cloud computing matures and enterprise architectures evolve to be more cloud-compatible. But there will always be cases where computer capacity should be retained in-house.

So perhaps the data center isn't quite dead, but cloud computing is certainly making headway. My prediction: Over time, cloud will be able to occupy the fertile valleys, and corporate IT will be forced to take to the hills.

About Chris Harding
Dr. Chris Harding leads the SOA Working Group at The Open Group - an open forum of customers and suppliers of IT products and services. In addition, he is a director of the UDEF Forum and manages The Open Group?s work on semantic interoperability. He has been with The Open Group for over 10 years. Dr. Harding began his career in communications software research and development. He then spent nine years as a consultant, specializing in voice and data communications, before moving to his current role. Recognizing the importance of giving enterprises quality information at the point of use, he sees information interoperability as the next major challenge, and frequently speaks or writes on this topic. Dr. Harding has a PhD in mathematical logic, and is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS) and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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