It is still early in the year, but cloud computing already is shaping up as a key trend for 2009.
At SoftwareAG's Cloud Computing Innovation Day in Santa Clara, Calif., on Tuesday, executives from companies including Software AG, Elastra, RightScale, and Soasta pondered the benefits and obstacles of cloud computing, a concept that generally involves enterprises utilizing third-party servers over the Internet to run applications. The event was at least the third cloud computing-related session scheduled in the Silicon Valley area since last Thursday.
"For me, cloud computing is infrastructure, infrastructure in the most fundamental sense," said Miko Matsumura, vice president and deputy CTO at SoftwareAG. "It really is the compute infrastructure to some extent, but that it gets deeper at some level."
Today, the main benefit of cloud computing is that it enables adherents to only use what they need, something particularly important in a down economy, Matsumura stressed. Clouds scale up and down quickly, he said.
"It gives you a lot of flexibility," Matsumura said. He anticipates enterprises utilizing cloud computing in a hybrid fashion, deploying some applications in the cloud but perhaps not for a bread-and-butter SAP application holding lots of proprietary data.
At Elastra, the company seeks to help take advantage of cloud computing using existing infrastructure, leveraging a client's virtualized datacenter and grasping which applications might make sense deployed on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) public cloud, said Stuart Charlton, chief software architect at Elastra.
"To really understand the cloud, it's not just about outsourcing," Charlton said. The point of the cloud is that it is aligned with recent concepts such as SOA and enterprise architecture, he said. Qualities of the cloud include on-demand access, usage metering, self service, scalabilty, and elasticity, according to Charlton.
Upcoming barriers to cloud adoption include integration and data quality, he said.
"My view is that the cloud is a very interesting destination for some apps, not for every app but for some apps," said Tom Lounibos, CEO of Soasta, which offers Web application testing via a cloud paradigm.
Applications for the cloud can include sales and marketing systems, RSS and content management systems, social networking, and CRM. The cloud "makes a very interesting platform for composite apps," Lounibos added.
Asked what applications do not work in the cloud, Lounibos declined to be specific, saying companies make personal decisions about cloud deployments based on core competencies.
Soasta is seeing enterprise companies as well as startups as customers. "What I've learned is cloud computing blurs the line between enterprise and small and midsize companies," he said. Lounibos asked, "Is Facebook a small or midsize company?"