Staying competitive means moving to the cloud — Damien Wong
JULY 9 — Last December research company International Data Corporation (IDC) noted that spending on the IT industry’s next dominant platform — built on mobile computing, cloud services, social networking, and big data analytics technologies — grew at about 18 per cent per year and is expected to account for at least 80 per cent of IT spending growth through 2020.
This is compelling evidence that a fundamental transformation is ongoing, where information is becoming the primary raw material in organisations and maximising the value created from that information is the increasingly strategic role of IT. Companies now have enormous opportunities to find and exploit previously inexistent market niches.
In some respects this is not news, even if the cutting edge aspects of such technologies are. The companies that grew up on the Web have had IT technology at their core. Nearly as well known are financial services firms that depend on top-notch hardware and software to rapidly price and execute trades. These types of businesses are cutting edge on the “3rd Platform”, as IDC calls it, too — but that has become an expectation in these industries.
What is distinctive today is that the cutting-edge IT story does not begin and end with such companies. Rather, it is nearly pervasive.
This is partly because access to advanced IT is no longer limited to big companies with the sprawling IT budgets. Start-ups can now routinely rent computing power by the hour at public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is arguably even more democratic. SaaS — essentially, hosted applications delivered over the Internet — is for fairly standardised applications that are useful to many kinds of organisations.
Nonetheless, SaaS can provide small firms the same access to software used by large enterprises; by paying the same per-user charges. This is significant as historically, small businesses were often disadvantaged by limited IT resources and skills to handle basic keep-the-lights-on tasks. Now, running the same email or customer relationship management system as larger competitors is hardly unimaginable.
However, cutting-edge IT has become more widespread for another key reason: Technology pervades anything.
Media today is digital media. For instance, the vast server farms at animation studios such as DreamWorks Animation, whose computing needs have grown as animation has shifted to 3D. But essentially, all content is digitised in various forms. For example, sports clips are catalogued and indexed so that they can be retrieved instantaneously — whether for a highlights reel or a premium mobile offering, a huge monetisation opportunity in any case.
How about something seemingly low-tech, like laundry? Mac-Gray redefined laundry room management with LaundryView, where residents can monitor activity in their specific laundry rooms, to see if a machine is free or their laundry is done. It’s been visited by five million people and online payment and service dispatch systems have been added.
The list of examples is endless. However, the basic point is straightforward. Increasingly, IT is no longer primarily important to a few industries and uses. Rather, it’s permeating every area of business, be it creating new services, increasing efficiency, delivering better market intelligence, or ensuring better consumer experiences.
For organisations building their own IT infrastructures, building an open hybrid cloud can break down IT infrastructure silos, making their resources more accessible to all users. This allows quicker development and deployment of new businesses, thus contributing to shorter time to revenue and more competitive offerings.
As mentioned, cloud computing also helps organisations with little access to cutting-edge technology and lacking the skills and scale for building in-house infrastructure. Whether Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or SaaS, cloud providers offer these smaller organisations a wide array of options to enhance their business with custom-fitted IT solutions.
Organisations can choose to leverage the power of cloud computing to move their business forward. Or they can cede their market to more nimble competitors, many of whom will be new entrants leveraging new ways and approaches to doing business enabled by IT. — Today
* Damien Wong is general manager for ASEAN, Red Hat Asia-Pacific. Red Hat is a leading provider of open source solutions, using a community-powered approach to provide reliable and high-performing cloud, virtualisation, storage, Linux, and middleware technologies.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.