By Andy Burton, chairman of the Cloud Industry Forum

Cloud computing has the potential to thrive and is on the verge of becoming mainstream within the IT industry, as it encompasses a broad range of potential suppliers from ISV’s to hosting companies and global brands such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon. However the availability of new technology is not in itself a reason for adoption, nor the tremendous commercial benefits of cost savings, agility and scalability on demand. Technical and commercial barriers need to be overcome in order for the industry to prosper. There is a lot of market hype surrounding the cloud and its alleged benefits, which has created a lack of trust, resulting in business being reluctant to invest in cloud services.

The biggest reason behind the lack of trust in cloud computing are businesses not knowing confidently what cloud computing is, what it can offer and how to integrate with the rest of their IT infrastructure. The most important factor when addressing the concept of cloud computing is therefore to understand specifically what it is by definition, and, how it can benefit both businesses and end users at a practical level. Cloud computing enables someone to access computing power (processors, RAM, storage and bandwidth) and applications ‘online’ via the internet on demand. This infrastructure is highly scalable and agile, operating independently from the hardware on which it operates. It is typically offered on a pay-as-you-use or subscription model and there are no capital costs to participate. With cloud service providers offering improved service levels and portable devices enabling anytime, anywhere use, the technology is set to change the way businesses operate dramatically.

Despite the positive commentary surrounding ‘the cloud’ and its alleged benefits, businesses have voiced doubts about investing in cloud services, and cite security, interoperability and trust as their major concerns. Contrasting information from those who promise remarkable financial savings, to those who highlight security and privacy ‘risks’, emphasises the need for cloud service providers to be clear and unambiguous on what services they deliver, including how, and from where. It also supports the case for a greater consistency of understanding of cloud computing with clear guidelines and measurements. It is therefore necessary to implement a Code of Practice, to standardise information provision, and certify organisations that offer a high standard of cloud computing services. This will reassure businesses that ‘the cloud’ can be a significant aid and a worthwhile investment.

It is clear that barriers, such as the lack of trust towards cloud computing, must be overcome by service providers in order for the industry to thrive. As it stands, the cloud industry lacks transparency and structure, which is why there is a lack of trust. A Code of Practice is necessary to engender the trust required by businesses and to provide clarity to potential end users. If cloud service providers follow regulations within a Code of Practice, businesses will trust and have confidence in the services they are investing in.

Service providers should be accountable for their operational practices, and in particular, they should actualise any public claims that they make about their service on their websites or promotional materials. They must strive to gain the trust and respect of end users, so we can expect more wide spread adoption of the cloud.

Until then, industry bodies must continue to find new ways of encouraging trust in the cloud computing sector so that end users’ endorsement of the industry will pave the way for similar innovative technologies to prosper in the future.