Blog article
See all stories »

The cloud: not quite soaring, definitely not disappearing

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.


Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 13 September, 2012, 18:02Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Funny enough, that phrase does not appear in Bacon's work. The closest he had was "knowledge is HIS power" referring to God (I guess we can see that as a connection to "cloud" :) As Buffett put it, "risk comes from not knowing what you are doing". In case of the cloud, that would be not knowing who accesses your data without your knowledge (using stolen password, for example). Cloud screams for a "lock" which can only be opened with a physical "key".
A Finextra member
A Finextra member 14 September, 2012, 09:10Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

2012 is certainly the year that Big Data has hit the mainstream and it’s not showing any signs of just being a passing fad, which throws up quite the challenge for the FS sector. The challenge is intensified when you consider that traditional BI solutions, even when taking a federated approach, have failed to tame it. However, the advent of cloud technology in particular, and its convergence with BI, really does offer the opportunity to get to grips with their data, which is fundamental to any programme, whether governance, risk or compliance. With these advantages, a financial institution does not have to worry about the technology failing to deliver in times of heightened scrutiny. Cloud BI scales more effectively both vertically and horizontally and the cost and scale advantages it can offer computing infrastructures enables organisations to both manage and extract value from their Big Data.

Now hiring