Mark Samuels talks to IT leaders about what's coming next in cloud computing and how to deal with the changes.
Utility computing has switched quickly from hype to reality, with increasing numbers of organisations moving infrastructures, platforms and even applications to the cloud.
What will be some of the next frontiers for on-demand technology and how can IT leaders prepare for the inevitable shift to cloud computing? Here, IT leaders discuss the future shape of the cloud and present their top tips for dealing with the next generation of on-demand IT.
Tip 1. Niche providers will fill the gaps
easyJet CIO Trevor Didcock is already making use of the cloud. He expects relationships with third parties to develop in the future, particularly with specialist providers that will help CIOs safely make the most of on-demand computing.
"There's a tendency to think that implementing the cloud means you have dealt with a concern and that it's become someone else's problem. But the cloud can increase security risks because you're more dependent on partners. You have to audit your external providers to ensure they're managing your data correctly," he says.
"CIOs will have to think very carefully about cloud management - the cloud is distributed, so there will be a third party working with your data on their own platform. You simply have to audit; you can't just trust the provider. The buck stops with the CIO but there is a degree of policy and there's a nice niche for organisations to step in and fill the gap."
Tip 2. The new management of risk
Like many of his peers, Law Society operations director and group CIO Steve Jeffree is at the first stage of on-demand computing: "I'm interested in the cloud. We're not particularly advanced but I do think CIOs need to look seriously at utility computing," he says.
Jeffree says the successful cloud will need to be about more than just the delivery of apps via infrastructure purchased on demand. The development of that role, he says, will mean CIOs need to concentrate on creating a new strategy to deal with the management of risk.
"CIOs need to consider privacy and controls," says Jeffree. "Remember that managing your own networks and datacentres is risky. You buy the right expertise off the shelf, so don't be too precious. The cloud is just another way of acquiring services."
Tip 3. Beyond the Wild West
Security concerns, whether genuine or perceived, have dominated the early stage of the cloud and will remain a challenge for regulated businesses, says JLT global CIO Ian Cohen. The auditor will continue to ask how and where data is stored, and CIOs cannot afford to give nebulous responses.
"You need to bring clarity and engage auditors in the dialogue about what the technology can do, rather than what it is or is not," says Cohen, who suggests the increasing move towards volume operations in the cloud will provide new opportunities for end users and IT vendors.
"What is required is the growth of trust agents to bring assurance to a world that has too many snake oil salesmen," says Cohen. "If the supply side got together and accelerated the creation of frameworks and standards that could be relied on to provide security and mobility, then even more people would use the cloud. It's still a bit too much like the Wild West and we need a few good sheriffs."
Tip 4. Usage-based computing
Stage two of the cloud will have been reached, says Colt executive vice president Mark Leonard, once the ability to turn IT on and off as a utility is taken for granted. CIOs will then need to ask how they can use such flexibility to the advantage of the business.
"People say the cloud is cheaper but CIOs will only gain...
Mark Samuels is a business journalist and editor at IT leadership organisation CIO Connect. He has written for various organisations, including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Guardian Government Computing and Times Higher Education.