Computing wars will intensify this year, in
hardware and operating systems, especially in the mobile arena. Growth in
netbooks and smart phones and increased reliance on cloud computing will
continue to transform personal computing from old markets dominated by
Microsoft's Windows. The previously stable desktop arena will be surrounded by
chaos, with lots of opportunities but no clear winners.
A fast-growing number of storage and software applications are moving to "the
cloud" - offsite services provided by the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and
other major contenders.
With an eye on being the lowest-cost cloud competitor, the Amazon Elastic
Compute Cloud (EC2) gives customers the chance to bid on unused computing
capacity to save money on low-priority work that can be deferred until computing
demand and prices are low.
In its annual "Top 10 Strategic Technologies" list, analyst firm Gartner
proclaimed that cloud computing is the number one technology.
The steady migration toward cloud computing is driven first by cost, and then by
quality of service. The immediate push comes from the economic downturn and the
need to cut costs. The shift is massive, both in physical scale and economic
impact. It allows businesses to turn off their own expensive, dedicated systems.
With the emergence of the cloud model and software-as-a-service (SaaS), large
systems vendors like IBM, HP and Dell have been buying up service companies.
It's changing the image of what each company really provides. Midst these big
changes, it's uncertain who will emerge as real winners.
There will be many short-term pricing benefits and increased service. But the
longer-term effects may not be quite so good for users. The gurus are warning
that there will be some kind of catastrophe before too long, either
service-outage or security-flaws. But, of course, these things can happen with
dedicated systems too.
How secure is cloud computing? Clearly the major providers are paying a lot of
attention to this key point because they are investing a lot and don't want to
risk their reputation. But it remains perhaps the single biggest negative
element in the switch to cloud services. Some companies hedge their bets by
moving to more than one cloud provider.
Users have been thinking about these kinds of questions for months as they
attempt to clean up their data centers by outsourcing some applications and