Cloud computing perspectives and questions at the World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum started a
research project
at Davos 2009 concerning cloud computing, which they broadly define to
include all kinds of remote services, from Software as a Service to
virtual machines.

I was asked to provide some ideas on the implications of cloud
computing for business as well as its future operating environment. To
allow my colleagues and the O’Reilly community to help define the
issues and provide references, I’ve put up a

discussion forum as a wiki
Anyone with relevant and valid ideas can suggest points. I don’t even
mind people listing their businesses and information sources, so long
as the information is relevant and is directed toward the larger
educational goal of the wiki.

I’m holding a phone call with someone from WEF on Thursday,
July 16 where I’ll present my views, augmented by your suggestions.

Here are the categories of the notes I used to seed the wiki.

Update, July 17:The phone conversation with a research director at World Economic Forum went well. She had already seen the wiki. We had a pretty free-ranging discussion during which i brought up my favorite points, including access issues and the need for different types of applications for different populations. I passed on some resources that readers sent me and gave her the URL of this blog with all its comments. I’ll continue to collect ideas in this area and work on the wiki.

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  • As long as companies can’t calculate the real cost of their infrastructure, this won’t make sense for them to move to the cloud. But once they will do it and measure it, they will probably change their mind.

    If Amazon or any other Cloud provider can propose an price per hour (EC2) or price per Giga stored (S3) anybody should/could do it too.

    This was a market point analysis. On the flexibility and the time to market cloud computing can provide this another important point that companied don’t care yet, but once their competitor will use it, they won’t have any other option to have a look too.

    For people interested and I’m in Switzerland, there is a big event planned in Yverdon October 5th about the Cloud Computing with people from Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

    We are using Amazon Web Service for almost 3 years now and all I can say is that the new services they provide are all based on people requests and people needs.

  • Andy,

    I’ve got a link to the recent McKinsey report on cloud computing over here

  • Brett

    I quickly scanned the wiki to ensure that I hadn’t just overlooked the following: security.
    Security of data is important to business and the level thereof will effect their willingness to embrace the cloud.
    Areas to think about:
    1.) Security of the software applications. Can individual accounts be cracked? Can a compromised account access another account? Do software bugs randomly ‘share’ account information?
    2.) Security of the infrastructure. If someone cracks the network infrastructure can they get at the account information easily enough?
    3.) Government access to the information. How easily will the cloud company hand over information when requested to by the government?

  • Andy,

    I think you have focused on cloud delivered apps as an alternative to existing enterprise server or desktop apps. That seems evident to me in the categories and points noted. Within that context, what you say is true.

    However, the broader implications are missing:

    1. Clouds offer data and information that is part of the global collective information. As a trivial example, Google search is a cloud app that can really only be a cloud app. I doubt anyone seriously doubts the implications for business using search.

    2. Businesses traditionally know a lot about what goes on inside their organization, but only very little about how their products are used in the world. Cloud apps that track products and user generated information could change that dramatically.

    3. There was no talk about how cloud delivered functionality to products might change business thoughts about design and production. We think of updated software for computer apps, but what about appliances? (If not today because of spotty connectivity, but tomorrow).

    4. No talk about how “collective intelligence” changes things. I was just at SciBarCamp yesterday and one participant was talking about designing mobile device software that would help track epidemics. There is a plethora of ideas out there, using social software techniques that will pull micro and macro interest groups together that will apply pressure to how governments and businesses do things. This will radically reverse the direction of information asymmetry that currently exists between providers and consumers.

  • What is needed is a Federal CloudBursting & Cyber Defense Contingency Plan as well as a Standard Cloud Performance Measurement and Rating System (SCPM).

    A few of the key points I will be presenting at Monday’s Federal Cloud Standards summit in Washington DC include;

    * Defining how to actually recover from serious Cyber attacks with a minimum level time cost and disruption.

    * Focus on limiting the effects that cyber attacks cause.

    * A plan to address specific strategies and actions to deal with cyber threats in realtime
    Include a monitoring process and “triggers” for initiating planned actions (GovBursting)

    See my complete post here >

    Standard Cloud Performance Measurement and Rating System (SCPM)

    Universal Cloud Compute Unit & Cycle – An open standard unit of measurement (with benchmarking tools) which allows cloud providers, enablers and consumers to be able to easily, quickly and efficiently access audit-able compute capacity with the knowledge that 1 UcU is the same regardless of the cloud provider.

    See more >

  • Ana Rodriguez

    Hi Andy,

    I just read your wiki about cloud computing, I think the content is very interesting and it would really help new companies to decide if they should invest in cloud computing or not. For my interest, the benefits and drawbacks for potential clients was one of the most important categories of the wiki since people may start using cloud computing without knowing the pros and cons of it. I also liked the category of Access since a company has to take into consideration that not everyone can access the Internet.

    Our company just developed a cloud-hosted application. You can take a look at it here: If you like it, you can help us vote for it at the new CloudApp() Contest: The app is listed at the end of the page, under the name of Omar Del Rio.


    Ana Rodriguez

  • May

    Advantage for virtual machines:
    cuts through the red tape

    Example: It can fill the (larger than desktop) computing needs of a researcher who a) doesn’t have enough funds to build, let alone, run a cluster; or b) belongs to a university that doesn’t have enough clout to join grid computing initiatives.

  • Cloud computing , I believe, should be delivered in line with the broad definition: customers don’t have to concern themselves with the skills required to design, develop, deliver and maintain software infrastructure. They should not be exposed to the risk and costs associated a world-class, 100%-available, high-performance application that advances and fulfils their strategy.

  • Great framework for extending the discussion on the cloud, managed services, and the looming ‘reaggregation’ of computing.

    Our research consistently shows users — mostly SMB, but not exclusively — citing three primary factors for adopting managed or hosted services:
    1. Capital cost reduction — or elimination
    2. Higher performance, reliability and uptime levels — often at reduced costs through MSP SLAs
    3. Lower TCO/ MUCH lower TCO owing to the material reduction of legacy integration, future proofing and obsolescence planning and management.

    These might be interesting metrics to define and measure . . .

    We are pushing forward a line of business focused managed services research agenda. If you would like to read more. Give us a shout.

  • Ted

    I think Alex Tolly hit it on the head. The biggest benefit to companies is a marketing benefit of getting that much closer to their consumer. Listening to customers: how they use their product, what needs to change, why they don’t use their product, is the best thin about social media and cloud computing. That “searching” is invaluable to a company, and the growth and branding of a company. Just watch a Windows 7 ad.
    Andy, you mentioned “broad” types of remote control software. Exactly, how broad are we talking?