With the launch of the Google App Engine, the concept of cloud computing takes one more step into the mainstream, creating yet another challenge to the business and operating models of IT service providers.
Cloud computing is one flavor of the grid computing approach to the use of shared computing resources. Companies offering hosted online services include Amazon, Bungee Labs, Elastra, Microsoft and Salesforce.com..
Cloud-based development platforms, or “Platform-as-a-Service” (PaaS) apps, are on-demand, web-based development environments that enable developers to build and deploy web apps that utilize the large variety of APIs and web services out on the Internet. Google App Engine resides more comfortably in this universe.
A recent article in CIO Insight by Tony Kontzer articulates the threat:
The promise of cloud computing goes far beyond simply providing software updates and dealing with growing server and storage requirements. It has the potential to transform the role of IT within the business.
A huge cloud hangs over the future of IT.
After more than a decade of refining the Internet as a marketplace, the business world is grappling with the uneasy reality that companies can run almost every information system they rely on without owning any tech equipment. Thanks to the phenomenon known as cloud computing, businesses can rent access to applications and IT infrastructure that reside on the Internet, pay for them on a subscription or per-use basis and provide employees with access to information from anywhere at any time with nothing more than a connected device.
This is a huge, and very real, threat to all manner of constituencies in the broad IT service marketplace. From application development to infrastructure outsourcing, the sense of fear in the air should be palpable. I don’t think it is.
But, as with most threats, there comes opportunity for those that recognize it.
If the proponents of cloud computing are to be believed, that’s where the greatest promise of the technology lies: in spurring innovation. “Cloud computing will completely change the role of IT departments,” Salesforce.com’s Benioff says. “The IT department is evolving from being information technology to being innovation technology.”
I want to believe that the global outsourcers and IT service providers have baked this into their thinking about the future of their business models, but I know better. Between this and SaaS, there may be some real unplanned obsolescence taking place in the market in the near future.