Last year a Gartner paper branded cloud computing on a potential path to ‘disillusionment’. Certainly, uptake of the cloud has been a slow process, but is this because the value proposition of the cloud hasn’t been clearly communicated enough in simple terms to the layman.
Essentially the Cloud is a utility, packaged in convenient API’s (Application Programming Interfaces), exposed over relevant APPs (Applications), so that services, infrastructure and resource costs can be exploited tactically in addition to traditional managed hosting, leased infrastructure and private facilities.
Similarly for big data – it’s heralded as a solution for a whole host of business problems - but many would be unable to outline what it is, or how it can be utilised effectively. Big data, fundamentally, is about the relevant, timely and responsive analysis and distribution of data to streamline actionable business intelligence. It seems to me that there is a deep lack of understanding for such a commonly discussed trend, and it is important that this is addressed.
Knowledge is power
English Philosopher, Francis Bacon, said that knowledge is power. This has never been truer than it is today. Data is at the core of everything we do. But how do you extract real value from it? To date there has been four widely accepted V’s of data: Velocity, Veracity, Volume and Variety (or the what and the how!). One V - Value (or the why!) - is missing. Big data only works when you can turn it into actionable data. You only have that when you have the right data, in the right person’s hand, at the right place, at the right time. After all, knowledge and tools are useless in themselves without context.
The challenge now is that everyone is everywhere. With the ever increasing busy lifestyle, we want to access data anywhere and everywhere. Tablet consumption is bigger than ever, whether at work, on your way to work or on holiday with your family, people will still be using a desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile. The cloud offers utility, access and services instantly and big data offers timely, responsive actionable intelligence. The missing link in this is data distribution on demand. Services and intelligence are useless if there are barriers to basic real time communication.
Data on the move
This is the route of the problem. Big data must have a real-time element. Big static data is useless. The cloud is great at supporting mobile, and we’re seeing no shortage of apps being built and driven from the cloud. But how do you get the demand for big data out to a mobile workforce? This is the real challenge.
Data has always given us insight, but it is so much more valuable when you get that insight instantly; and this is where the cloud struggles. The services simply aren’t data-performance driven. You have all the data, you crunch it, and then it sits gathering dust in a static report, delivering no value to anyone. Standard infrastructure needs to change to a more data-orientated approach.
That’s the performance issue. There is another hang up.
Unfortunately, when distributing data over the cloud, it’s not as secure as you would hope. There is a big security fear because technically, you don’t know where your data is (in comparison to the relative safety of storing it on a server). Transferring data over the cloud is via the public internet, which always adds a certain risk, especially when you usually have to open an obscure port to get the data in and out.
Unknown, not disillusioned
The cloud is not on the path to disillusionment and neither is big data. Sure, there are still performance hang-ups and security hang-ups but the cloud is maturing every day as more technology vendors enter the market and offer a richer service. Technologies such as our data on demand product DiffusionTM can facilitate data transfer over secure internet ports, and is one way to utilise the cloud whilst reducing the security risk.
Cloud and big data brings new challenges and they require new technologies and a new way of thinking. We realized this many years ago when we started Push Technology. A cloud offering that could not move data instantly was like a shiny new car with no fuel in it. It looked great and the technology it had inside sounded fantastic but the reality was you could do very little with it.
Data distribution is the fuel/power that is missing from the cloud and is the part that will make the whole cloud come to life. It requires a new approach to moving data and not the traditional ‘message bus’ approach. You are now looking to move data over an uncontrolled environment that is constantly changing and sometimes disconnected - these are new challenges that need new solutions.
The cloud approach is new, the challenges of maximising the potential of the cloud are new and the solutions to solve these challenges are also new. Everything is new and new equals big risk.
In this current climate (and with budget speech looming) businesses are nervous in taking risks, especially when it comes to the security of one of their most valuable assets and make no mistake, that’s what data is. The cloud has automatically lent itself better to certain industries such as utilities and ‘controlling your home on the move’, transportation and supply chain management. And yet ask why CAP markets aren’t using cloud services – it’s because they work in nanoseconds. And you can’t get that over the cloud. It’s good enough for a lot of services, but it’s not good enough for everything.
Whilst the Cloud is about easy cost-efficient access to data, it’s only of value to businesses if that data can be accessed in real time. Data becomes worthless very quickly - do traders want market data that’s even an hour old? A solution which allows for real-time insight into business-critical data is key to deriving real value from the Cloud. That should be the priority.
With more innovation and investment in better and richer technologies the cloud will become more main-stream - facilitating true innovation based upon core values and clear contexts (the why!); then we will see the bigger share of the market and faster-paced organisations start to adopt.