Cloud computing: End of the corporate WAN?

When vendors and marketers get their hands on an IT concept, it doesn't take long for that concept to morph into a totally new business opportunity and possibly a new market segment. Such is the story of cloud computing.

The basic concept of the cloud has been expanded to a new level with an entire new market-segment vocabulary. The classic definition of cloud computing associated with the Internet is now referred to as a public cloud. Its manifestation in the corporate world is a private cloud.

Simply put, it is an internal computing and communications environment that provides users with hardware and software services behind the corporate firewall. In this brave new world, not everything is black or white. Shades of gray have been created with two other forms of cloud computing. The first is the hybrid cloud that combines both public and private clouds, and second is the virtual private cloud that provides a secure bridge between public and private clouds.

Confused? Add such terms as cloudware, cloud client, cloud-oriented architecture, cloud storage and cloud app, and we have a new industry initiative taking form right before our eyes. Not over a period of years, but in a few months -- cloud time makes Internet time look slow.

What will this do to the corporate WAN? The changes that may occur can be as dramatic as the outsourcing of the WAN to a next-generation services delivery provider (SDP) to, as a minimum, the re-engineering of the WAN to meet cloud computing quality of service (QoS) latency and service-level agreement (SLA) availability requirements.

In the SMB marketplace, the decision will be easy. The capital-expenditure and operational-expenditure savings will justify a commitment and the conversion to cloud computing. The corporate environment is another story. Making the corporate WAN into a supercomputer accessible anytime and anywhere by the end user is another issue. In today's constrained financial environment, change must be justifiable through increased productivity or profitability, not for the sake of technological change.

Corporate migration to cloud computing will be slow and surely not at the speed vendors and marketers envision. As has occurred with the conversion to service-oriented architectures (SOA), conversion to cloud computing will be determined by need and in a hybrid manner. Hybrid and virtual private clouds will be the mode of conversion to this new form of computing. Coexistence rather than evolution or replacement will be the rule rather than the exception.

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