In a recent move that probably comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the software advances, ESRI has announced that it is collaborating with Amazon Web Services to make ArcGIS available through cloud computing. The emerging trend of cloud computing can deliver both SaaS (software as a service) and HaaS (hardware as a service) to consumers who can realize a benefit from shifting their capital expenditure into an operational expenditure. As apps become bigger consumers of infrastructure, the ability to continually be on the bleeding edge of technology may cause firms in this economy to scale back their IT budgets and rethink the continuous upgrading of servers and desktops in favor of a pay-per-use approach.
Cloud computing does present a few drawbacks. The immediate one that comes to mind is the connection-if the only means of accessing files is the Internet, then work stops the moment the connection goes down. Also, you would need to have a pretty good connection speed to function on this platform, especially when it comes to graphics and computationally intensive functionalities. Another disadvantage that really sticks out is the fact that you do not physically have your data, and thus the responsibility for its security rests on your service provider and the inherent levels of vulnerabilities of their data centers.
However, if you are serious about going green, using this technology reduces your hardware and, as a result, reduces the energy required to maintain your systems. Less energy, maintenance and hardware translates to lower costs. Another key advantage focuses on the scalability of the systems; since provisioning of resources is on an as-needed basis, idle server processes are eliminated. Cloud computing also boasts many other advantages, including location independence, reliability, metering and multi-tenancy. A good example is www.salesforce.com, which hosts CRM (customer relationship management) software on its Internet servers.
Think of how many times we have upgraded our systems to support the functionality of CAD and GIS software. Wouldn’t it be nice to just log on from anywhere and run GIS in a cloud?
What do you think? Is your company willing to relinquish your systems and IT infrastructure to an ASP (application service provider) and cloud computing? Please share your comments below.