This article previously appeared in Technology and Commercial Contracts Newsletter, November 2011.
Capturing the Cloud
Cloud computing is the delivery of software and data storage solutions via the internet with the associated hardware generally located in datacentres far from the cloud customers' main business premises. Just like businesses access the energy grid to meet their energy requirements, cloud customers access the cloud to meet their IT requirements. Using the internet as an IT platform brings with it a host of benefits: businesses may no longer need to invest heavily in purchasing hardware or licensing software; instead, they are offered access to IT solutions "on tap", and can use the cloud to store data and as a means of delivering software "as a service." Sharing server capacity is not only economical but is environmentally friendly, and can give businesses access to software, storage and security features that they might not otherwise be able to afford. However, while cloud computing offers many benefits and opportunities to businesses, it also presents challenges that need to be overcome before its full potential can be realised.
While cloud computing is not new, the momentum behind it has never been so great: Apple's iCloud and Chromebook, Google's cloud-based laptop have raised the profile of cloud computing considerably by bringing it to the general public, while ever-increasing server capacity, network access and virtualisation of computer resources (which allows for the leveraging of IT hardware and software capabilities by virtue of economies of scale) are making cloud computing a viable and attractive IT solution to businesses of all sizes. There are broadly speaking two kinds of clouds: public and private. The private cloud, also known as the internal or proprietary cloud, provides dedicated network services to a single or limited number of users and is typically managed by the organisation it serves. The public cloud on the other hand is more open in nature (although still secure) and is based upon the true cloud computing model whereby the latest IT solutions are made available to the general public over the internet, bringing cost-savings and almost infinite scalability. Examples of public cloud providers include Window's Azure Services Platform and IBM's Blue Cloud. A third model, the hybrid cloud, blends characteristics of both the private and public cloud. It is the public cloud that is the focus of this...