Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.
Although Indian businesses are definitely adopting cloud computing, it's still is in a nascent stage and hasn’t gone past the awareness phase. Not many decision makers understand the terminology of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS and the differences between public, private and hybrid clouds.
Cloud vendors take India seriously as India hasn’t hit the saturation levels yet. Unlike the Americas and EMEA, India and the APAC have ample scope for IT adoption. This market has a huge, untapped potential at every level, be it enterprise, public sector or ITES. System integrators such as Wipro, Infosys and TCS are busy assessing the opportunity and creating the relevant service offerings. The government and the public sector can benefit immensely from the Cloud. By setting up a private cloud, state governments can gain access to virtually unlimited, centralized computing. Through this, they can save cost by limiting the servers and maintenance in the local data centers.
The SMB story is just warming up. Some of the inherent problems that India has been grappling with could now turn into a great opportunity for cloud vendors. There is a limitation of investment in technology. To make the leap, SMBs will have to choose between investing in creating a huge infrastructure and looking into the cloud framework.
The ongoing impact of open source, the whole concept of SaaS meeting the cloud, will be major trends. We see business processes and the business process management work, information management and enterprise applications management increasingly overlapping
Private, hybrid or public cloud
Currently, most Indian companies prefer private clouds. The public cloud is mostly aimed at the consumer and small business level. A few organizations are also exploring the hybrid option but people are wary of hybrid clouds because of security reasons and also availability—what happens in case the Internet lines go down? etc. Therefore, they are more prudent while transferring things like CRM or e-mail on to a hybrid or public cloud model. In private cloud, it’s behind a firewall and not on the global class Internet like Google Applications. Basically, it’s delivered over VSAT or WAN links that are more reliable than the public Internet.
As and when the perception changes, more public and hybrid cloud adoption will also occur. Eventually, the lines between private and hybrid cloud will blur and customers will be either on the private or the public cloud. Google has started offering applets (downloadable appliances), that let users deploy the company’s cloud-based offerings internally. An offline version of its Gmail product is also available. In February 2009, IBM and Juniper announced a collaboration aimed at managing hybrid clouds. Initiatives like these will make more enterprises look at the public or hybrid cloud.
Hybrid is a better solution but it is also difficult to manage and defeats the purpose of going on to the cloud and increases the complexity as one still needs to manage the transactions as in how the organization interacts with the cloud.
SaaS, PaaS and IaaS
The three segments of cloud computing serve a different purpose and offer different products to businesses and individuals around the world. Due to its high flexibility, enhanced scalability and lower maintenance, SaaS is, at this point, the most popular option when it comes to cloud computing. Yahoo mail, Google docs, CRM applications etc. are all instances of SaaS.
The scenario will not change much in the coming six months but in a few years time, PaaS will have faster adoption than SaaS. IT companies like TCS, Satyam, Infosys and Wipro are all building PaaS infrastructure and want to deliver development platforms to their mid-sized customers on the cloud.
The shift to cloud platforms and cloud computing services generally is still in an early stage of technology adoption. Cloud printing services are no different. Like any other technology, there are discussions as to whether this is the most efficient manner. Some are concerned with security.
The value of a cloud printing service (CPS) is when a document needs to move from electronic or digital format to print. The use of online applications could spur the use of CPS when a physical document is required. These services are at the 'emerging' stage of the IT commoditization curve, resulting in a market without standards, accepted pricing models or a dominant technology leader with an overwhelming competitive advantage.
When introduced, any new computing technology is complex and customized and users must evaluate the opportunity to leverage their installed base and, potentially, they could migrate a portion of their print infrastructure to the cloud.
Cloud printing would also allow for wireless printing from mobile devices, which would give users the liberty to print while on the move, drive productivity by allowing enterprise users to share printers and documents more efficiently, print ahead from remote locations and convert mobile content into hard copy for easy reading, markup and sharing.
How cloud printing works
Cloud printing services are hosted offerings that enable users to print documents and other materials on any digital printer, copier or multifunction product that is associated with the cloud. Users create content with any software tool that they want, transfer the file via whatever device they choose to a cloud printing service provider, which then routes the file to a cloud-attached printer selected by the user. The user hits print and the phone hands the document (or link to the document) to the printing service in the cloud. This printing service opens the document and sends the print job with the original printer driver. The cloud service hands the print job in a highly compressed format to the device. The service hands it over to the printer via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Traditional printers will work on a ‘through’ basis, where the request will be sent to the cloud, and then come back to a local printer. Conversely, cloud-aware printers would use a model where the data is pushed to the printer from the cloud.
Print outsourcing vs. cloud printing
From a digital printing perspective, the advent of cloud printing services is a sea change. Users no longer consider printers as assets that they must own but rather as devices that they can access when they have the occasional need to generate a printed page. Cloud printing provides them with the opportunity to consider whether they require the physical printer asset or simply need access to a printer on demand.
Cloud printing has qualitative advantages such as reduced worker frustration and productivity loss resulting from searches for enabled network printers; increased productivity, especially for mobile and remote workers; the ability to deliver anywhere and then print the latest file version at the last minute; enabling non-employees to print to selected corporate printers etc.