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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cloud computing?

For the past few years, there's been a debate going on over whether or not information technology still matters, or if it's simply become a commodity that doesn't provide any real advantage any more.
Last Thursday, IBM joined this debate by announcing plans for Blue Cloud , an offering targeted at making it easier to run large-scale applications with massive databases over the Internet. Blue Cloud includes grid-computing software, Xen and PowerVM virtualized Linux operating system images and Hadoop, the open-source software platform that eases the prospect of writing and running data intensive applications. IBM is aiming to open the prospective market for companies to benefit from extreme scale of cloud computing infrastructures quickly and easily, through commoditization .

Does this signal the onset of a future where core infrastructure really doesn't matter? Not quite. In fact, IBM's ambitions in the area of cloud computing proves that IT infrastructure matters more than ever.
A fact that will require Google to respond by further differentiating along a similar curve. Plus, with the distinct possibility of IBM commoditizing the "Google data center," through successful commercialization of Blue Cloud alive and well, the search giant will have to find ways to translate its edge in IT infrastructure into the domain of its increasing bevy of developer-centric plays.
Efforts like OpenSocial serve as evidence that Google has already embraced the notion of the cloud on some level. Continued progress by Blue Cloud might spur the notion of a more comprehensive Google cloud that expands beyond social networking platforms, targeted at newer forms of enterprise-centric web development models and architectures.
It is also very possible that Google might develop a native set of interfaces similar to those available for Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) in pursuit of burgeoning market for cloud computing.

Furthermore, IBM's involvement and the potential for a Google response, does nothing but add to the momentum behind cloud computing as an evolving battleground between tech heavyweights, meaning it is undoubtedly on Microsoft's radar.
Currently, the Redmond-based company finds itself in a world where virtualized, Internet-driven computing platforms like Blue Cloud are minimizing developer dependency on the operating system. A stark reality that does not bode well for its Windows and Office based hegemony.
Essentially, Microsoft must explore how it to competitively respond with its Live versions of Windows and Office amongst the backdrop of a rapidly maturing cloud computing space. In the face of an ill-equipped response over the long haul, it will face mounting pressure from rapidly maturing Linux alternatives on the desktop front and cloud computing on the web end.

As the demand for Web 2.0 capabilities continues to explode over the next three to five years, companies across the globe will have to investigate if/how their current IT infrastructure will scale towards meeting that demand internally and externally. With Blue Cloud, IBM is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for establishing a cloud computing environment ready to test and prototype Web 2.0 applications within enterprise environments.
Still, IBM must better express the value proposition for cloud computing including illustrating how seamlessly cloud-enabled applications can/will integrate with existing IT infrastructure.
This entails addressing the plethora of questions regarding security, privacy and reliability. A critical part of easing the learning curve associated with any new model. In general, Blue Cloud's impact stands to affect the overall acceptance of the entire cloud computing paradigm. The reality moving forward is that cloud computing for the enterprise will remain a good idea in concept, until a strong association can be made with a common set of business problems and/or industry standards.


Alex Fletcher
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