When Hewlett-Packard launched its Software Universe event June 15 with a presentation on cloud computing, it was just the start of a day about clouds. HP kicked things off with its announcement at a massive event held at the Gaylord National conference center at Washington’s National Harbor, and featured Bill Veghte, who recently arrived at HP after a long stint at Microsoft. Veghte said that about three-quarters of businesses are pursuing cloud computing in one way or another.
Meanwhile, General Electric was holding an event in downtown Washington at which it announced its electronic medical records software-as-a-service product. This platform is aimed at giving small medical practices a way to offer electronic medical records affordably.
Next, Verizon announced June 15 that it will be providing its own branded cloud storage product aimed at enterprises. Verizon Cloud Storage is designed to work either on its own or in conjunction with existing SAN or NAS storage systems. Verizon’s product is building on a capability that the company has had for some time, but is only now being offered under its own brand.
It’s significant that in a single day, the IT community has seen three major, if unrelated, announcements of cloud computing and storage products. But what’s significant may not be what you think. After all, the whole cloud thing has been part of virtually every IT discussion for the last year. Even individual consumers are being offered cloud services for offsite backup. What’s significant is that the whole range of cloud services is starting to show signs of offering more complete systems.
GE’s example may be the best one. While much of the world of cloud computing is theoretical at best, GE Health Care is offering an actual service that’s badly needed by a community of professionals that often doesn’t have ready access to up-to-date IT systems. In many ways, doctor’s offices and small medical practices have a great need for good IT because it helps their patients, and it can help them by making operations more efficient. But the sea of regulations that surrounds medical computing is a powerful disincentive.
GE, in its new product launch, is offering a solution to a community that badly needs a good, secure, reliable and affordable cloud service, and has no way to get it. While this service is just for the medical community, it opens the door for the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that may not deal with medical records but that need a path to secure, reliable and affordable IT systems.
Taking the Leap into Cloud Computing
Verizon and HP, meanwhile, also open new paths to the cloud for companies that haven’t been using it effectively in the past. While there are a number of cloud storage companies already serving the enterprise, Verizon has the credibility-and the clout-to be attractive to large enterprises. It’s a little less clear what HP has in mind, except that the company is indicating that it will be offering cloud solutions and cloud-capable applications that allow companies to take advantage of virtualization by offering support for cloud services.
What’s critical, however, aren’t these specific announcements. What’s important is the trend. Piece by piece, companies are beginning to offer cloud-based solutions that can be used by actual companies relatively easily. Until recently, the discussion about computing or storage in the cloud has mostly been about what could be done, someday. Now the discussion is moving to what is being done and is available either now or in the near future.
Cloud computing and cloud storage aren’t the answer to all needs for all companies, but the technology and the services that come with it are very important. There’s no reason, for example, that a small company can’t put its point-of-sale operation or its inventory control software in the cloud and spend a lot less money than it does maintaining its own data center. There’s also no reason why a smaller company can’t use cloud services when it previously had no way to automate any of its operations.
While the industry has a way to go before it can offer affordable cloud services to every mom-and-pop grocery store or landscaping company, the trend is in that direction. After all, most small medical offices only consist of a few people, a limited number of services and a lot of records. How long will it be before those records become inventory records, and those appointments are for yard work instead of summer camp physical exams?
The leap into cloud-based software isn’t that big, but the number of companies that need to make that leap is immense. While it’s unlikely that there will be a cloud service, cloud software or cloud storage that’s appropriate for every business, the broad availability of affordable cloud services will be a significant benefit to business as a whole because it will bring enterprise-class operations to businesses of any size, at the same time lowering the cost of doing business. The good news is that the process has already started, as this one day’s worth of announcements indicates.