The IT world is abuzz with possibilities that Cloud Computing offers despite fears of a global recession. Let me put forward a few facts that will help us understand how quickly will it actually make a difference to everyday users.
Assuming the needs of non-enterprise users would be limited to medium to heavy use of personal computers and smart phones, cloud in theory provides few interesting options. You can do away with the hard disk completely and use a remote server to store your data/applications. This would eventually make the devices that you use (your laptops/desktops) sleeker and may be potentially completely replaced by tabs. Other than that, it will provide a theoretical cost benefit by providing functions to remotely host commonly used applications and data storage spaces. I say theoretical for a specific reason which I will elaborate further down.
Before we move on, let us review the roadmap and roadblocks to establishing reliable Cloud services.
a) Research and development cost to be borne initially mainly by robust product companies like Apple/Google – and the rest will follow the suite!
b) Establishing reliable and scalable infrastructure required to make the dream a reality – you would not want the server to be unavailable or a fluctuating internet link when you are trying to search an important email stored on a Cloud app
c) Security protocols encrypted enough to safeguard your application information and more importantly data
Let us look at the internet or mobile user community and its spread – China dominates with 23% of worldwide users. India, Brazil, Russia and Nigeria (yes, Nigeria) figure in the top 10 and account for further 15% of internet/mobile phone users. The rest of the top 10 countries include US (11%), Japan (4%) and other top EU countries. Considering the user base, it will take some time to address point b) above in these countries. I am based out of India and at times irritated by the time my phone takes to retrieve a simple internet page over a supposed high speed 3G link in spite of using a HSDPA device! Given the current state of the so called ‘advanced technology’ affairs, I would certainly not want to keep important and personal data on a remote server for which I have to be dependent on the whims of stability of my network service. I am sure that the situation would be different for users in US/Europe, but still point a) above will take some time given that point c) needs to be completely foolproof for it to become a mass rage. Off course, there are other benefits of centrally storing data/apps and the primary one is that it makes them device independent – which is really the most important benefit for the non enterprise user. I am sure Apple’s widely anticipated iCloud will provide some answers once it is unveiled later this year – potentially with the iPhone5(?). Considering the typical time required for evolution of a technology, it will take around 3-4 years till we have our first complete cloud based device to play with.
Okay, so before you dismiss me as a superficial Cloud computing critic providing skeptic views, let me tell you who I feel are going to be benefitted the most by this concept of Cloud computing. It will be the small and medium enterprises who may need to use a variety of applications for a small user community. Cloud computing will not only offer them large savings but also enable access to a wide variety of applications for their day to day business operations. The IT services industry would be well advised to gear up for this challenge and invest their resources towards offering Cloud based services. However, it is the big product based companies that are being looked upon at the moment to provide a direction to the others in terms of how to take this forward. The possibilities are no doubt exciting but having a cautioned approach with realistic expectations may be the best way forward!
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