The Days of Owning Software are Limited

I’m really loving a phrase that I read recently about cloud computing. It came from the CIO of Avago Technologies, a San Jose, CA-based semiconductor maker, which is gradually migrating its data and apps to the cloud from its internal servers – including recruiting, human resources, e-mail and web security.

According to Bob Rudy, CIO at Avago, migration has saved the company millions of dollars by eliminating hardware needs and software licenses and improving security, speed and storage. Moving to the cloud has also freed up employees from annoying and trivial tasks like managing their e-mail, enabling them to focus more on their core jobs.

But Bob phrased a simple description about the pull of cloud computing that I’d like to share: “The days of owning software are coming to an end.”

Bob was featured in a recent story in the San Francisco Gate about the rise of cloud computing, which called Bob’s statement “an increasingly common sentiment.

“As 2009 draws to a close, cloud computing is floating past that threshold between curiosity and convention, or as Gartner Research put it, `beyond the pure hype stage and into the beginning of mainstream adoption.’ Mainstream like Comcast Corp., Genentech Inc., Kaiser Permanente and the Obama administration, which formally embraced the approach in September as a means of cutting government waste. They’re among the millions of new business customers, organizations and consumers demanding software that runs and stores data on the Internet rather than on the desktops or servers in their building.”

I liked, too, what the story said about why the Cloud has such particular relevance today. The savings angle of the Cloud has long been praised, as in the “pay as you go” approach. But what’s different today is that conditions are ripe for mass adoption:

a) the growth of devices that continually connect to the web, such as smart phones and netbooks,

b) the emergence of newer, better and safer tools,

c) success stories of early adopters,

d) and the new frugality born from the economic downturn.

Yet, as the article says, not all express uncontrolled optimism. There are legitimate concerns about cloud security and reliability of cloud service – spawned by failures like Gmail outages several times in 2009, and the recent downtime at Rackspace.

Overall, I think Bob Rudy’s assessment is right on the mark, however. Businesses will overcome their hesitancies about putting – if not all – at least some of their apps on the cloud, and cloud providers will get better at mitigating risk and ensuring more reliable service.

To quote Dave Girouard, Google’s president of enterprise, from the story: “There was a time when people thought it wasn’t safe to do business over the telephone.”

In the meantime, don’t underestimate the power of independent monitoring of cloud providers to help you manage your applications and data on the cloud.