IBM Is Betting On The Power Of Cloud

Grazed from IT Jungle.  Author: Jenny Thomas.

"Get your head into the clouds and get back to work!" If your boss has recently issued you this order, you are not alone. There was a time when being accused of having your head in the clouds meant you were spending too much time daydreaming and not enough time producing real work. But, according to a recent IBM study, the number of companies turning to cloud computing is expected to more than double in the next three years.

The study, titled The Power of Cloud: Driving business model innovation, surveyed 572 business and technology executives worldwide. The goal was to find out how companies are using the cloud now, and how they hope to use it in the future...

Harnessing the rapid availability of data and explosion of social media are pretty much a given as reasons for moving to the cloud, and respondents indicated they will increasingly look to the cloud to develop new business models that can exploit the capabilities resulting from these digital trends.

Also slightly predictable was the discovery that over half of the respondents cited "improving organizational efficiency" as a top business challenge today, although only 31 percent anticipate it will be a top challenge in three years. The more interesting finding reported was the indication that business needs will soon rival IT motivations for cloud adoption, with respondents anticipating a changing focus toward growth and competitive initiatives in the future.

Key findings that support this change from survival to growth include:

  • 62 percent of survey respondents saying increased collaboration with external partners is a key objective for adopting cloud.
  • 57 percent citing competitive cost advantages through vertical integration as a major motivation.
  • 56 percent pointing to opening new delivery channels and markets as an important objective.

Just 16 percent of the executives surveyed said they are already using cloud capabilities for sweeping innovation, but by 2015, 35 percent intend to use it to transform business models.

An example cited in the study illustrated how one company is using cloud computing with its online marketplace for handmade goods. The cloud made available better tools and computing power, allowing the company to cost effectively analyze data from the approximately one billion monthly views of its Web site and use the information to create product recommendations. Before the cloud, these analytical capabilities might typically only be affordable to larger retailers.

The study's authors point to cloud's capabilities to mask complexity and enable user-defined experiences, as well as its overall scalability and cost flexibility as key reasons companies are planning to move it into front office operations in the near future.

Of course, while it is easy to make cloud computing sound like the greatest thing since the microchip, making the jump could be construed as a leap of faith. IBM believes companies view cloud computing as a way to improve responsiveness and change the economics of IT, but recognize IT managers want the ability to exert the same control over a virtualized, distributed environment as they would exert over prior models of IT.

Enter IBM's SmartCloud Foundation, featuring a software as a service suite that offers organizations options to install, manage, configure, and automate the creation of cloud services in private, public, or hybrid environments with a higher level of control than previously available.

Under the SmartCloud Foundation, and in conjunction with the release of the study results, IBM also unveiled new cloud software offerings intended to help clients speed delivery, lower risk, and better control the move to cloud computing alongside existing production environments, including:

  • IBM SmartCloud Control Desk--Provides organizations the ability to maintain configuration integrity in response to planned changes and unplanned incidents.
  • IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices--Helps firms better manage and secure mobile environments, including iPhone, iPad, Android-based phones and tablets, Windows Phone and Nokia Symbian devices. With the ability to install in minutes, organizations will quickly be able to remotely set policies, monitor employees' devices to identify potential data compromise, and wipe data off the devices if they are lost or stolen.
  • IBM SmartCloud Monitoring--Enables cloud administrators to maximize cloud availability and utilization by monitoring virtual infrastructures and applying analytics to optimize workload placement.
  • IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center--Improves the flexibility, cost, utilization and performance of storage with automated administration, management and provisioning controls.

Henry David Thoreau famously said, "It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are. . . than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise."

He might not have been thinking of your computing environment when he said it, but I tend to think IBM would resoundingly agree with him.