Maybe the cloud computing hype is closer to reality than we thought.
While the issue of cloud computing has indeed been shamelessly promoted beyond the bounds of reality, and the term itself begs for clarification on a number of fronts, it looks as though the trend toward using hosted application services from external providers is really taking off.
Let me qualify that a bit. There don't appear to be many large enterprises ready to hand over their business kingdoms wholesale to Amazon Web Services LLC or
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), but it sure looks as if they're ready to hand over some big chunks. (What about you? Take our latest poll.)
Take Rentokil, a U.K.-based conglomerate whose subsidiaries include businesses in pest control, work-wear rental, and parcel delivery. This week, Rentokil announced a deal in which it will hand over its email to Google. The company expects to replace multiple mail systems and servers for 35,000 employees worldwide with offsite cloud services via Google Apps Premier Edition by the end of 2010.
"We're also looking at Google chat, video, and security," Rentokil spokesman Malcolm Padley told me yesterday.
Rentokil decided on the move to Google Apps after a 100-day trial among 800 employees of one division who are located in various locations around the globe. "Through easing the burden on the IT department, facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration, we are confident that our use of Google Apps will be of huge benefit to our colleagues, customers and other stakeholders," said Bryan Kinsella, Rentokil CIO, in a prepared statement.
Rentokil doesn't seem concerned about reliability -- a major question when it comes to cloud services. Indeed, Padley says, Rentokil expects better system uptime than it's had up to now. "We expect a significant improvement in our performance, in comparison to existing multiple systems that also have outages." Email fixes should be easier, and multiple SLAs with Google (terms undisclosed) cover Rentokil, should downtime occur.
The SLAs also cover any chance that data would be lost as a result of backup problems on Google's side -- an issue thrown into relief lately when Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) lost data from Sidekick servers it provides to T-Mobile USA . (Thankfully, Redmond has apparently managed to restore some lost data.)
Rentokil's case is a big add for Google, of course. But it's intriguing nonetheless to see the willingness of a big company to hand over its internal apps to an outside provider -- for real. More stories like this could help get other enterprises off the fence.
Here's another: This week, the U.S. Department of Energy
announced a plan to build a $32 million test bed of Intel cores for use with cloud services from Amazon, Google, and
"Cloud computing has the potential to accelerate discoveries and enhance collaborations in everything from optimizing energy storage to analyzing data from climate research, while conserving energy and lowering operational costs," said Pete Beckman, director of Argonne's Leadership Computing Facility and project lead, in a prepared statement. "We know that the model works well for business applications, and we are working to make it equally effective for science."
Sure, I still don't know what a hybrid cloud really is. And there are still lots of issues to be resolved for cloud services, such as security, which continues to be a bugbear for many would-be adopters. Still, with examples like the ones we've had this week, it's easier to forecast enterprise IT's future as cloudy.
— Mary Jander, ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution
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