If you think that cloud computing is not for you, you may be left stranded…with sharks.
“If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you are right.” So said David Linthicum, author of ‘Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise‘.
He went on to say, “Cloud computing is based on the time-sharing model we leveraged years ago before we could afford our own computers. The idea is to share computing power among many companies and people, thereby reducing the cost of that computing power to those who leverage it. The value of time share and the core value of cloud computing are pretty much the same, only the resources these days are much better and more cost effective.”
In biological science there is a concept called convergent evolution, which essentially describes how different organisms have independently evolved the same solution to a particular problem. The similarity in body plan between sharks and dolphins is a perfect example. Despite one arising from a fish and the other from a land mammal, the particular circumstances of life in the pelagic ocean have resulted in the gradual adaptation through survival of both groups into superficially similar morphologies.
New Era Solutions
The cloud computing model of this era is indeed offering a similar solution to a similar problem that the shared computer access model used to. Indeed I recall having to book computer time in my university days, and that on a machine with a fraction of the computing power of my wristwatch!
In that case it was simply a matter of limited availability of the machines themselves and sharing the cost between groups was the only model that made sense. Today the equation is a different one. Raw computing power and data storage are dirt cheap…
As an aside, a quick sketch calculation confirms that data storage twenty five years ago cost around seventy thousand times the equivalent cost today. (To check my working: I installed a 100MB hard drive in a business system in 1990. It weighed 120Kg and cost about £1100 Sterling. Last week, I put a 1TB card in my camera for just under £140.)
…but it isn’t the cost of the machine resources any more that are the limiting factor. It’s the overhead. The cost of management and operation, the risk of failure and consequential loss, and the inertia lumped on the enterprise in times of radical and accelerating change.
Putting Software to Work
What is driving business systems into an effective shared computing model in the cloud is not the need for more resources at lower cost (although this is undoubtedly an unplanned upside). No, it is the need to decouple the business processes from the technology.
Yes, of course, the technology – and by that we mean software of course – is central to the business process. I mean, do we really need to say e-this and e-that anymore? But in the past our business processes were determined BY the software. Today cloud software can give us the flexibility to conduct business how we think best and the software can be put to work for us.
Perhaps that’s sounds a bit too rosy-tinted for some. But the fact remains, the risk and cost of making the wrong decision in selecting a cloud software provider, is the merest fraction of what it was in the old, customised-behind-the-firewall days.
A recent conversation I had with a consultant suggested one client of theirs was looking to migrate their systems as-is to an SaaS platform over the next five to seven years. In that same time, a more decisive CIO could make the wrong decision about a cloud provider twice(!), and still be further advanced in ROI by the time that migration is over.
So, the imperative to move into the cloud is compelling but the skepticism around security can apply the brakes in many organisations.
Because cloud computing evolved from a different ancestor to the shared computer model – out of the chaotic, anarchic, everyman’s internet, run by nobody-knows-who, instead of out of the traditional, conservative club of private supercomputers run by accredited Systems Analysts –, and because of a slew of high-profile hacking cases, there remains a core of uncertainty in the procurement industry.
To that end we work closely with our customers to help them understand where the security risks today really lie, and the greatest of these is inertia.
As I think about the case of the company taking upwards of five years to take what they have today and put it online, I can’t get the image out of my head of a diver coming up from a leisurely reef excursion only to see the dive boat heading for the horizon. Of course, if he can’t tell whether that fin belongs to a dolphin or a shark, you now know why.
It will take a company with very deep pockets and very great resilience in a rapidly changing world to be able to ride out the cost of being left that far behind.
There do remain reasonable questions around technical security that should be asked and answered in any selection process, and our two-part paper “Securing Procurement in the Cloud of Tomorrow” is designed to help that conversation.
Vivek Kundra, former federal CIO of the United States said, “Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because [cloud providers] can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.”
The question is not whether, or even when. It’s how.
Enterprises should be moving their procurement processes to the Cloud, say GEP. For more on this, download the latest white paper research.
For more help on avoiding the sharks in procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.