The latest paper from Gartner has branded cloud computing on a potential path to ‘disillusionment’. Certainly, uptake of the cloud hasn’t been quick, but I wonder if it’s simply that the value proposition of the cloud hasn’t been clearly communicated
enough in simple terms to the layman.
Fundamentally the Cloud is a utility, packaged in convenient API’s (Application Programming Interfaces), exposed over relevant APPs (Applications), so that services, infrastructure and resource costs can be exploited tactically in addition to traditional
managed hosting, leased infrastructure and private facilities.
Similarly for big data – it’s heralded as a solution for a whole host of business problems - but many would be unable to outline what it is, or how it can be utilised effectively. Big data, fundamentally, is about the relevant, timely and responsive analysis
and distribution of data to streamline actionable business intelligence. It seems to me that there is a deep lack of understanding for such a commonly discussed trend, and it is important that this is addressed.
Knowledge is power
Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. The same statement has never been truer than it is today. Data is at the core of everything we do. But how do you extract real value from it? To date there has been four widely accepted V’s of data: Velocity,
Veracity, Volume and Variety (or the what and the how!). One V - Value (or the why!) - is missing. Big data only works when you can turn it into actionable data. You only have that when you have the right data, in the right person’s hand, at the right place,
at the right time. After all, knowledge and tools are useless in themselves without context. For example, Apple’s context is to ‘think different’ and ‘delight customers’- focusing on a set of contexts shared between them and their customers.
The challenge is that now, everyone is everywhere. We travel a lot. We want data everywhere. When I’m on my way into work, in the office and when I’m overseas. On my desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile. And I want it now. The cloud offers utility, access
and services on top. Big data offers timely, responsive actionable intelligence. The missing link in this is data distribution on demand. Services and intelligence are useless if there are barriers to basic real time communication.
Data on the move
That’s where the problems start to crop up. Big data must have a real-time element. Big static data is useless. The cloud is great at supporting mobile, and we’re seeing no shortage of apps being built and driven from the cloud. But how do you get the
demand for big data out to a mobile workforce? This is the real challenge.
Data has always given us insight, but it is so much more valuable when you get that insight instantly; and this is where the cloud struggles. The services simply aren’t data-performance driven. You have all the data, you crunch it, and then it sits gathering
dust in a static report, delivering no value to anyone. Standard infrastructure needs to change to a more data-orientated approach.
That’s the performance issue. There is another hang up.
Unfortunately, when distributing data over the cloud, it’s not as secure as you would hope. There is a big security fear because technically, you don’t know where your data is (in comparison to the relative safety of storing it on a server). Transferring
data over the cloud is via the public internet, which always adds a certain risk, especially when you usually have to open an obscure port to get the data in and out.
Unknown, not disillusioned
The cloud is not on the path to disillusionment and neither is big data. Sure, there are still performance hang-ups and security hang-ups but the cloud is maturing every day as more technology vendors enter the market and offer a richer service. Technologies
such as our data on demand product Diffusion TM can facilitate data transfer over secure internet ports, and is one way to utilise the cloud whilst reducing the security risk.
Cloud and big data brings new challenges and they require new technologies and a new way of thinking. Data distribution is the fuel/power that is missing from the cloud and is the part that will make the whole cloud come to life. It requires a new approach
to moving data and not the traditional ‘message bus’ approach. You are now looking to move data over an uncontrolled environment that is constantly changing and sometimes disconnected - these are new challenges that need new solutions.
The cloud approach is new, the challenges of maximising the potential of the cloud are new and the solutions to solve these challenges are also new. Everything is new and new equals big risk.
Remember that we are coming out of a recession. Businesses are nervous in taking risks, especially when it comes to the security of one of their most valuable assets and make no mistake, that’s what data is. The cloud has automatically lent itself better
to certain industries such as utilities and ‘controlling your home on the move’, transportation and supply chain management. And yet ask why CAP markets aren’t using cloud services – it’s because they work in nanoseconds. And you can’t get that over the
cloud. It’s good enough for a lot of services, but it’s not good enough for everything. With more innovation and investment in better and richer technologies the cloud will become more main-stream - facilitating true innovation based upon core values and
clear contexts (the why!); then we will see the bigger share of the market and faster-paced organisations start to adopt.