There is growing international appreciation for the concept of cloud computing or the integration and virtualisation of heterogeneous IT resources. Decision makers across various industries understand that the implementation of distributed computing, which comprises sharing and managing usage of resources, is a critical differentiator within the modern market.

Globally the trend of moving services into the cloud is gaining popularity. The fact is that cloud computing reduces the complexity of the computing process and provides various virtual-based services – including Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

The services stack will always begin with commoditised services. Testament to this is the migration of the most obvious service, namely email. We are not just talking about email on its own, but a number of affiliated and related services such as archive, retention, continuity and disaster recovery.

Major global players in the fields include Postini, Message labs and Live Office.  This has also led to a surge in virtualization and on-demand provisioning that can be seen out of global leaders like Amazon.

Next in line is the Off-site data storage, using binary increments and secure encryption technologies. This has paved the way for these services to not only belong to the corporate organization, but to be exposed in a “Free-mium” model, most notable being Skydrive.

Whilst progression of this trend is obvious, migration to the cloud is dependent on infrastructure, connectivity and local mind-set. These three factors will have a direct bearing on the success of an investment into cloud-based services.

One needs the correct infrastructure to be able to host and run this service, connectivity has to be reliable and secure, and there has to be buy-in from the top of the organisation to the bottom, if interest in cloud computing can lead to achievement and advantage in business.

What does the future hold for immediate application of this technology?

The adoption of Cloud Computing in South Africa and Africa is linked with a connectivity growth cycle, in terms of both list mile and undersea cables.  With the provisioning of new undersea cables, to include Seacom, Easy and the upcoming Wacs and Mains cables, together with local loop unbundling and fiber provided by Neotel, Dark Fibre Africa and the like, we will see faster adoption.

Adoption will also see access to international hosting as well as exposure of local hosted application to offshore environments.

The impact on the migration from on-premise computing to ‘XaaS’, will see Internet service providers and telecommunication companies look to managed service providers and integrators for technological innovation – the key requirement being the provision of hosted services, applications and platforms.

This provision will stimulate the virtualisation environment as required with the hosting of multi-tenanted platforms that are able to scale on demand and allow for the provision of additional resources (like dispersed storage as a service) according to growth and uptake of these hosted applications.  We endorse a continued migration of commoditized applications into the cloud, allowing for ‘click to run’ and opposed to ‘click to install’.

Now more than ever, in South Africa and globally, companies are looking to do more with less.  The world has fundamentally changed and a focus on efficiencies and optimisation of existing infrastructure is the focus of leading organisations.

Virtualisation is on the top of the agenda for most CIOs that are focusing on the migration from a standard operating environment to a more dynamic environment according to the Microsoft Operational Framework.

The upfront once-off capital spend to create a virtualised environment is allowing most companies to gain the long-term benefits of reduced continued upgrade and optimisation required by business, with immediate access to faster computing power and a more structured environment.

SaaS is also leading the way for business to become decentralised by way of outsourced hosting and virtualised through the fundamental change in the world’s economy.