As firms continue to pump money into cloud computing, there is an image of the cloud as a method of storing information by sending it floating effortlessly in the ether, safely out of sight and out of our hard drives.
Of course, the reality might not quite match such breezy notions, with concerns over the impact of the masses of data centres highlighting that the current draw on electricity of two percent worldwide is set to climb substantially, promptly sending Greenpeace up in arms.
How and where work is actually being outsourced to is of concern as suggestions of large amounts of data being sent abroad by the NHS and HMRC, with Gary Flood, Consulting Editor at publictechnology.net stating that it will take away ICT jobs from those in the public sector.
“Discussions about the Cloud tend to focus on the reduced cost and increased convenience to the customer - quite rightly,” says Gary Flood.
“But less talked about is the fact that Cloud is really just another name for outsourcing, even if that outsourcing is 'internal,' putting my ICT into a different place, if not asking it to be run by a third-party. And the obvious corollary of any outsourcing is job loss.
“You save money, ultimately, by doing the same for less than before.
“Certainly, I'd expect to see IT departments in anything but very large, or quite idiosyncratic, organisations get radically smaller as a result of Cloud-based outsourcing in the next five years.
“It's hard to see what the future for internal, user IT professionals would be as a result. Why would I hire them? If there is a future for such people, it has to be in the vendor or service
While this means jobs going abroad and becoming more centralised, which is certainly good news for cloud providers, as Flood points out “it's bad news for kids leaving British universities with fresh comp.sci. degrees, as it's hard to see where we'll place them.”
There has been much umming and aahing about whether cloud is a viable option following Amazon’s rather embarrassing cloud balls up, but Flood believes that such a hiccup is a mere distraction to some of the main questions surrounding cloud. The amounts of cash being ploughed into services by firms such as HP and Dell are unlikely to be derailed by such an episode.
With figures stating that a 12 percent yearly increase in the amount of power required to provide the datacentres with energy there is an expectation that the two percent of the world’s electricity is expected to double by 2020, as datacentre work is outsourced across the globe.
There are firms seeking to address concerns over their database cooling costs, with Microsoft slashing cooling costs by 75 percent to bring it closer into line with Facebook and Google, but concerns are being raised over the way energy is being produced.
For example, Facebook and Co are thought to be heavily reliant on dirty energy production methods such as coal burning, by planting their datacentres in the American Midwest where such energy is cheap and plentiful, with Greenpeace labelling datacentres the factories of the 21st century.
But as Flood points out there are further problems raised with the movement of datacentres to third world countries, raising not only concerns for the environment but also over security when secure information is shipped away to a public cloud.
Of course the unassailable move into the cloud offers significant opportunity for cost reductions and other benefits, but it also means that as organisations will move information abroad there will be inherent security risks.
So while organisations continue to move to public, private and hybrid cloud approaches it is worth considering the impact it will have on a number of areas as well as the ability to cut costs.