If you'd told me in early 2009 that cloud computing services would be one of the hottest topics in communications and IT by the end of the year, I'm not sure I would have believed you entirely.
But by the end of 2009, cloud computing is everywhere. Small and midsized businesses are talking seriously to cloud providers like Amazon, Google, IBM, AT&T, BT and many others. Even larger enterprises are looking at this model to cut costs on data center processing, storage and software applications.
While the essential cloud computing services model has been with us for a while, under the moniker of Application Service Provider (ASP), the current iterations of the technology and concept are catching on like wildfire, especially in an uncertain economy in which enterprises of all sizes are doing everything they can to cut costs out of their businesses.
While "cloud computing has huge potential to be a game changer for businesses around the world, the industry needs to work through a number of major issues before cloud computing services can live up to the huge amount of hype they've enjoyed this year. TM Forum is jumping into the fray with our own initiative.
Establishing security standards for cloud computing services must be the first priority if enterprises are essentially going to hand over their corporate data to an outsourced storage provider or rely on another party's server processing or software. If enterprises are putting their data on a server they don't physically control, it turns the whole security paradigm on its head. If that doesn't raise red flags, I don't know what will.
Today, most companies keep their hardware and software resources under their own control -- where employees have direct access to the data center. Even if a company outsources some or all data center functions, its resources are sitting in a data center where someone is paid to keep watch over everything.
When an enterprise gets into the cloud, its data could literally be sitting on the same server as that of a competitor's. Rather than having direct or even indirect control over the data, enterprises are pretty much at the mercy of their providers.
Security concerns are probably among the major reasons why the latest surveys show that more than half of all enterprises have cloud-based services in their plans, but only 2% are actually implementing them. Their trepidation is real and won't abate until we have real cloud computing services security standards in place that all providers must comply with.