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Caution about the future of the cloud

Ross O. Storey | April 13, 2009
Singapores IDA warns about hurdles to cloud computing

Cloud computingwhere computer applications and resources can be accessed over the Web, on a pay-per-use basiscertainly has its attractions.

The ultimate scenario where enterprises could have all of their IT systems maintained, run and updated, at someone elses expense, must be the holy grail for many chief information officers (CIOs). But there would be a danger in regarding cloud computing as simply a way to wash your hands of the responsibility for the complexity and efficiency of enterprise IT systems.

Singapores plans for the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network, which is intended to deliver bandwidth speeds of up to 1Gbps and beyond to every postal address in Singapore by 2012, is being hailed by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) as potentially setting up the Lion City to be the leading cloud computing adopter in the world.

A paradigm shift

The IDA raised this potential at a recent cloud computing forum and described this subscription-based IT approach as a paradigm shift from PC-based to Web-based computing, that spells many opportunities for the IT industry.

But, as with any new approach, there are always major stumbling blocks and the IDA also highlighted compliance, standardisation, data security and regulatory compliance as hurdles that need to be jumped before cloud computing can really take off.

The authority told the forum that cloud providers needed to ensure that regulatory frameworks, such the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, are met, or enterprises will likely be hesitant to adopt the cloud computing business model.

The authority also highlighted the need for one or two cloud computing standards by which vendors operate, to lay out specifications to reduce their business risk. As the IDA sees it, this would reduce the risk of lock-in" which deter enterprises from deploying applications on a cloud. Without interoperability, said the IDA, it would be difficult for users to move from one cloud to another.

Data security

On the issue of data security, which always crops up when CIOs discuss the potential of cloud computing, the IDA made a good point, that cloud providers can now generally offer better security for small and medium enterprises, compared to what they already have.

The cloud computing forum was told that industry and manpower development efforts  need to be accelerated.

During its presentation, the authority identified industry verticals such as finance, healthcare, high performance computing, analytics and mobility, as being areas where it will encourage flagship cloud computing adoption.

The IDA told the cloud computing forum that Singapore is working to attract leading cloud providers to hub in this island city-state, and is also collaborating with institutes of higher learning to define the syllabus for cloud computing courseware.

Thought leadership

This was an interesting overall statement of the IDA (and therefore the Singapore governments) belief in the future of this new computing approach. It demonstrates how Singapore has a pro-active engagement with the IT industry, is willing to show positive thought leadership, and remains committed to investing in leading edge approaches.

Ross O. Storey, currently the Managing Editor of Fairfax Business Media Asia, is responsible for the editorial content and production of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia magazines.