DON’T MISS RECENTLY PUBLISHED: 2013 Trends in Data as a Service and Cloud Computing
In the cloud computing world, 2012 is shaping up to be a continuation in the trend of cloud-based data center services increasing their footprint at both the consumer and corporate levels. Studies by Cisco and others show an almost exponential growth in cloud data traffic for 2012 and beyond. The rapid proliferation of mobile devices, combined with data server virtualization, serves to fuel increased dependence on the cloud for both computer processing and storage needs.
Conor O’Mahony, IBM’s Program Director for Database Software, sums things up about the cloud as the year transitions from 2011 to 2012:
“In 2011, cloud computing continued its march towards mainstream adoption. Cloud computing is redefining the way IT assets are sourced and managed. Almost every organization either has cloud computing in its environment already, or has immediate plans to use it. The economics, agility, and value offered by cloud computing is just too persuasive for IT organizations to ignore. While hosting, virtualization, and software-as-service (SaaS) are the well-established pillars of cloud computing, I expect 2012 to be a break-out year for platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and private cloud deployments.”
From the general public deciding between competing cloud-based storage options offered by Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, to businesses of all sizes either consuming or reselling cloud computing services, there’s little doubt 2012 is poised to be yet another “Year of the Cloud.”
Traditional Data Center Traffic Continues its Move to the Cloud
Cisco’s Global Cloud Index tracks and forecasts the growth of global data center and cloud-based internet traffic. According to the Index, traditional data center traffic will continue a linear growth pattern in 2012 through 2015, while cloud-based data is expected to more than double over that same time period. Traditional data center servers are expected to grow from 1.4 to 2.0 in installed workloads from 2010 to 2015. Conversely by 2015, cloud-based servers show a growth from 3.5 to 7.8 installed workloads per server. Cisco also predicts that by 2014, more than half of all server workloads will be cloud-based.
Clearly, this data center virtualization trend will drive an even greater increase in cloud IP traffic. According to Cisco’s study, global cloud IP traffic is expected to increase by a factor of twelve over the next five years, reaching an annual amount of 1.6 zettabytes in 2015. This means an annual compound growth rate of 66 percent.
The Global Cloud Index also compared the world’s regions in terms of their relative readiness to handle cloud-based computing. Western Europe tended to lead all regions in most of the measured categories, including average throughput and latency. Asia led in the number of broadband subscribers, due to the region’s population density. North America and Western Europe shared leadership in access to both mobile and landline broadband services.
New Opportunities and Relationships for the IT Department
2012 also appears to be a year of changing relationships for corporate IT departments, largely due to increased cloud-based initiatives. In many cases, companies using outside-based cloud services might treat their internal IT departments as more of a just-in-time service provider or even outsource ever larger portions of their data center functions. On the other hand, companies with their own investments in cloud-based data centers potentially have new business opportunities to resell their services to clients or business partners.
One cannot assume that industry giants in the consumer world like Amazon or Google are the only companies able to leverage cloud computing as a business opportunity though. Small to medium-sized businesses with cloud investments stand to benefit as much as their larger compatriots.
Mobility the Biggest Driver Moving Businesses to the Cloud
A cloud computing study by CSC revealed some surprising trends for 2012 and beyond, and at the same time dispelled with a few widely-held assumptions:
- Mobility is the biggest driver in moving businesses to the cloud. There are more employees using smartphones and tablet computers, so access to corporate documents across all devices becomes more vital, as does an increased dependence on cloud-based storage. The CSC study reported that 33 percent of the 3,500 companies surveyed listed mobility as the main reason to move to the cloud, with cost savings coming in second at 17 percent.
- Surprisingly, cloud-based adaptors are not yet realizing much in actual savings. Almost a quarter of the companies in the survey reported no savings, with 35 percent seeing a savings of less than $20,000. Many organizations expect those savings numbers to increase as cloud investments get paid off.
- The environment is one benefactor of the cloud computing movement, with nearly two-thirds of the companies in the CSC study reporting reduced waste and less energy consumption.
- Nearly all surveyed companies report a general increase in IT productivity, and over 80 percent of those firms have seen improvements within six months of implementing a cloud-based strategy. Moving to the cloud does not seem to cause a considerable variation regarding data security concerns though, as only 25 percent of those polled feel less secure on the cloud.
The Consumer Level Cloud Service Battle
A primary area driving cloud computing growth is the increasing number of mobile devices; companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and others have competitive offerings with their cloud storage platforms. One example of this is the recent release of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet. It attempts to leverage its non-competitive 8GB of on-board memory by offering free cloud storage for all content bought from Amazon.com. Since the Fire does not allow any content on the device that wasn’t purchased on Amazon.com, this creates a captive audience for Amazon’s consumer cloud storage service. Amazon Cloud Drive normally runs from $20 per year for 20GB of cloud storage, all the way to $1000 per year for 1000GB. The company’s Cloud Player app is available for all popular mobile platforms as well as a browser interface.
Content purchased from Amazon.com doesn’t count against a customer’s Cloud Drive storage limit, so those buying the higher storage options are usually storing a large quantity of video content.
The biggest selling point for Apple’s recent iOS 5 mobile operating system update was iCloud, Cupertino’s own cloud-based storage system. iCloud provides seamless sharing of content between all Apple devices running iOS 5, as well as Mac computers running OSX Lion. iCloud users get the first 5GB of storage for free and additional cloud space is available at a cost. Apple provides fewer pricing options than Amazon, as they range from $20 per year for 10GB to $100 per year for 50GB extra storage. Just like the premium pricing for their computers and mobile devices, Apple’s cloud-storage prices are essentially twice as expensive as Amazon’s.
In addition to a range of corporate-level cloud computing services, Microsoft recently introduced Windows Live SkyDrive, its consumer level cloud-storage offering. It allows for convenient sharing of content on both Windows Phone and iOS devices, but purposely not anything running the Android platform. SkyDrive provides 25GB of online storage at no cost to the user, but Microsoft limits file sizes to 100MB and can throttle the number of files a user uploads to the cloud in any one month. SkyDrive offers seamless integration with the web and desktop versions of Microsoft Office. Since it’s free, SkyDrive becomes arguably a loss-leader for Microsoft’s flagging line of Windows Phone devices.
Google maintains its Google Cloud Storage offering for the developer community, serving a similar role as Amazon’s S3 corporate cloud service. While there are many third-party consumer cloud storage options available for Android users, Google is yet to offer its own branded option for Android device owners. Considering Microsoft’s move to exclude SkyDrive from the Android platform, it’s not inconceivable to see Google introduce its own consumer cloud-based storage service in 2012.
With mobile device proliferation driving consumers to the cloud in both the corporate and consumer markets, let alone the increase in cloud-based data center traffic, there is little doubt that 2012 looks to be a watershed year in cloud computing. Businesses of all sizes need to pay close attention to cloud computing in 2012 to grow or maintain a competitive advantage.