Chris Whitney is the Director of HP Labs Singapore, which undertakes exploratory and applied research into applications and data centre design for cloud computing. Prior to this Mr Whitney was the Director of the Service Automation & Integration Lab, as well as the Director for Research & Innovation for HP Services. He also served as CTO for the Customer Relationship Software Organization and worked at HP Labs Bristol. Before joining HP, Mr Whitney was the Founder & Chief Technology Officer for Active Reasoning, Vice President of Engineering for Cable & Wireless North America and Vice President of Service Development for Exodus Communications. Mr Whitney also held senior management and research positions for Marconi Software Research, British Telecom Research Labs, AT&T Network Systems International. Chris Whitney has a BSc in Computer Science and an MSc in Computer Science, both from the University of London.
The ‘cloud’ is the next step in a revolution that began with the Internet. It will make computing capacity efficient and affordable, and redefine how people interact with technology. The total amount of digitised data is doubling every 18 months; it needs to be analysed, shared, and acted upon. The cloud will be the means to tame the information explosion and put it to use. Cloud services will displace traditional industries and bring extraordinary benefits to developing regions such as Asia.
When it comes to the ‘cloud’, there is no shortage of opinions, predictions and even definitions. The result: confusion. One thing is clear: we are on the cusp of a revolution, many years in the making, that began with the Internet and that will take us into a future of information and experiences beyond anything we have yet achieved. Computing capacity has become efficient, affordable and is redefining the way that people interact with technology. High-speed, broadband connectivity has combined the forces of globalization and the power of human creativity on a massive scale. It is estimated that the total amount of data in the world will double in the next five years. The amount of digitized data doubles every 18 months. This staggering amount of information needs to be stored, processed, analyzed, shared, and acted upon - a daunting challenge. The good news - a wave of innovation is rising to meet the challenge head on. The Internet is evolving into the cloud - the vast computing resources through which everything can be delivered as a service, on demand. From computing power to business processes to personal interactions, the cloud will be the means to tame the information explosion and put it to use in a meaningful way. Through the cloud, we can foster the information economy, address issues such as the information explosion, globalization and environmental sustainability, and drive growth deep into the 21st century. The impact of the cloud As information is steadily liberated from devices and stored in the cloud, we will increasingly connect to services that are aware of our preferences, context and location. Search will be done for you, not by you. More intuitive technology that anticipates our needs is an enormous opportunity, not only for the end-user experience, but also for those who provide it. Businesses can reach mass markets on a one-to-one basis with services delivered in a pay-per-use model. The economics of the cloud are such that expensive infrastructure can be shared and flexed to meet the demand of one or 1000 or one million users. For example, a cloud service could provide sophisticated supply chain information to a small manufacturer in India. Alone, he may not be able to afford such a service, but if we use the underlying infrastructure for thousands like him, it becomes not only economically viable, but a significant growth opportunity for both the service provider and the entrepreneurs they serve. Although the cloud has extraordinary potential, the industry has a lot of work to do before we fully realize these benefits. We have defined our perspective on the cloud as Everything-as-a-Service and we have been methodically executing a strategy to position our company as a leader in the cloud. Cloud considerations It was clearly evident at this year’s Cloud Asia event that many Asian companies are seriously considering the cloud and are well versed on the benefits it can deliver, however adoption to date has been very much based on a wait-and-see approach. We conducted delegate research1 at the recent Cloud Asia 2010 event in Singapore, and we found that 68 per cent of delegates reported that they expect to see widespread adoption of cloud computing services amongst enterprises within the next three years. At the same time, 66 per cent of them are planning to implement a cloud-computing platform within three years. When considering cloud computing, businesses need to approach the cloud as they would any other business investment - with careful planning, focused goals and agreed expectations. Businesses need to work closely alongside their IT vendor to understand the risks, investment required, and implementation process. Like any new technology, it is important for CIOs to be well informed on how their data and information is being stored and used. Security is another big barrier to cloud adoption. Delegates at Cloud Asia 2010 confirmed this, with one in three agreeing that security concerns form the main obstacle to cloud computing uptake in the region, and 82 per cent of survey respondents citing data privacy as a top concern. When company data is stored on the premises, IT departments have various weapons at their disposal - firewalls, signature-based anti-virus software, and ‘white lists’ of people granted access to various files and applications on the company’s network. But in the cloud, a company has no control over the security measures adopted. IT managers need to understand how to capitalize on the benefits of cloud while mitigating potential risks so they can have full confidence in the cloud. Despite all of these challenges, IDC Research reports that spending on cloud computing is expected to increase to US$42 billion in the next two years. Several countries like Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand are rolling out national broadband network initiatives, which will ultimately fuel greater adoption and accessibility of cloud services. The diverse technology environment in Asia has also enticed many to focus their research on cloud computing here. For example, the Open Cirrus project, a test bed that looks into cloud computing research and advancement aims to promote open collaborations among industry, academia, and government bodies. The global test bed has already 50 research projects underway. Recent involvement from Asia’s research organizations such as Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority, South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and Malaysia’s Mimos (a strategic research and development organization under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation) ensures that Asia is well represented in the advancement of cloud computing technology. Looking ahead The emphasis on cloud computing has always been on the technology itself. However, I feel that the true adoption of cloud computing will ultimately be driven by its users. Over time, we will witness the displacement of traditional industries by cloud services. Through innovation and a culture increasingly accepting of pervasive technologies, the cloud will help us address some of the biggest issues we face as a society: • Expanding the reach of technology will help level the playing field in a global marketplace and enable more innovation from every corner of the world. • Intuitive technology will help ensure that access to an unprecedented amount of information can be harnessed for our advantage. • The displacement of traditional business models will result in more productive industries with dramatically lighter carbon footprints. The publishing industry is just one example of how the cloud will challenge and change traditional practices. The cloud will not only democratise publishing, it will, at the same time, provide scalability and flexibility to the publishers. Every magazine can be printed to order. Publishers can enjoy scalability to automation as the production is centralized within the cloud, and equally importantly, it brings scalability to conservation, as production is fulfilled on demand, which reduces any form of wastage. The potential in cloud is extraordinary and for a developing region like Asia, we still have a long way to go before enjoying the full range of benefits. One key issue deterring cloud-computing growth in Asia is the variation in broadband availability across the region. The priority now is to level the playing field in Asia, without allowing the technology gap between the countries to slow down the growth of cloud computing in Asia. With Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand rolling out national broadband initiatives, I am definitely hopeful to see more organizations in Asia accessing the cloud to implement more solutions for consumers and enterprises alike. The next couple of years will be crucial for the growth of cloud computing in Asia. To advance as a region, I strongly advise organizations to look beyond best practices and successful blueprints from other parts of the world and to adopt cloud computing services and infrastructures that fit the diverse environment we have here.