The future of cloud computing is not necessarily outside the firewall

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2014

Discussing wheter companies have to keep their information systemes within their walls or host it, wholly or partly, outside is a central issue.

The Saas or “cloud computing” logic majes sens. The time has come to take away the sacred aura of what,  as Nicholas Carrs  wrote in The Big Switch, is becoming as banal as electricity or running water. Plug, use, unplung. Nothing more. It’s a service like any other and the software + hardware duo is not a sacred cow anymore in people’s life. So why should it be so at the office. Today it’s nothing more than a simple computer and nothing more than software, it’s a part of my everyday life and the only thing that matters is that it does what I expect it to do. I don’t care how it’s done or whether my favorite software is on the net net or on my hard drive. Employee’s computers have shifted from a strategic good to a common consumer good.

There’s also another point : hosting an always increasing volume of datas is a real job and we can reasonably wonder if companies will be able to keep up with this, scaling their infrastructure and assuming related costs while Amazon and Google are building datacenters that allow to dramatically rationalize costs. Let’s also add that for medium size business the “internal” solution will be less and less affordable and that there seems to be no other solution than mutualization.

It’s the same as for money : companies put it in their bank instead of keeping it their offices.

That’s why many companies are following this path, one of the last being Eli Lilly.

A third point we can mention is mobility. For efficiency, productivity, rationalization reasons, ideed for “green” reasons, companies are coming to the conclusion their employees may be able to access their datas wherever they are. Many of them being afraid of giving to external people access to their own infrastructure, hositing part of the service outside of it may make sense.

But the opposite strategy can also make sense. It’s easy to undersand that for security reasons, it’s impossible for companies in certain industries (for example defence related ones) to have any data stored accessible or stored outside. Some may say it’s only a psychological barrier, but the fact this is a true and actual barrier that must be taken into account.

It’s also impossible not to assume it will deeply change the role of any IT department, with the impact we can guess on IT people’s minds. I don’t even mentions suppliers whose business is to sell thousands of men days on a yearly basis only to help their clients to make the machine run and may think their business will collapse.

Are we doomed to ideological discussions till a major and painfull constraint makes things switch in any direction ?

A few weeks ago, someone from the IT dept of one of the biggest french companies was telling me : “our future is to provinde internal cloud”.  According to me he understood that delivery, accessibility and infrastructure control were things that may me taken independantly. You can provide “cloud” to your internal clients, be a Saas provider, without having anything hosted by any external provider. Two  months ago, Gartner coined the concept of “Private Cloud” to designate what they think being the most sensible choice at this time.

Some may think this model will only be a transition but I think it can become more perennial. There won’t be an universal and unique response to this issue at last in the ten next years. Some may choose “everything at home”, some others “everything outside” and some others “the same thing at home that I can have outside”.

As for SMB, I think they won’t be able to avoid the cloud and that it may happen very very soon. They won’t be able to do everything by themselves except if they are ready to see their IT dept becoming bigger than their core business. Any sensible mind know that rationalizing costs that are not directly related to their core business is critical.

amazon, cloud computing, données, DSI, google, hébergement, logiciel, Saas