Cloud computing undoubtedly changes how we individually and collectively will approach information technology. The challenge, as the CIO of the United States Vivek Kundra has framed it, is to have the business of government IT work as well as IT does for ourselves in our personal business.
Free (and low cost) alternatives to established software products will be an important part of IT strategy in the public sector for the next decade.
The concept of “free” is a powerful one. Whether it is a 2-for-1 happy hour drink, a sample of teriyaki chicken at the mall food court, or a complimentary ticket to an event, we all like free. This is true in the technology area as well.
There is much discussion about the whole concept of “free” pricing for many products and services today – and many of the email, storage, hosting, and applications that are at the forefront of cloud computing today are indeed free. The most notable of these are the product offerings of Google (Gmail, GoogleApps, GoogleDocs, and others). Much attention has been devoted to the concept of “freeconomics,” most notable the recent book by Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson entitled, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Most consumer-level cloud offerings would be labeled a “freemium,” which is a free version that is supported by a paid, premium version. Such freemiums are becoming an emergent business model, as they are particularly popular among online service and software companies. And, when faced with competing against “free” alternatives, older, more established companies have seen users migrate to the gratis alternative. Indeed, some see an entire “Culture of free” emerging, where from music to entertainment to news to software, people are coming to expect that free is the price they should pay.
In the corporate computing market, as software, hardware and processing power, and storage capacity become more and more commoditized, cloud computing becomes a free – or lower cost – alternative to the way things have been done for decades. As Gartner’s Andrea DiMaio recently remarked: “Why should I bother looking for an email client to replace Outlook and coexist with my newly installed OpenOffice, if I can get email and office suite as a service with somebody like Google at a fraction of the cost and – most importantly – giving up the IT management burden too? Why are we talking about moving servers from Windows to Linux when the real question is why do we need to have our own servers in the first place?”
As in the corporate market, government agencies across the United States and around the world are looking at free cloud-based offerings to play a major role in their cloud computing strategies. The first CIO of the federal government, Vivek Kundra is also a big proponent of using free resources where appropriate in government IT, as demonstrated by his experience of moving the District of Columbia’s workers to Google’s free email and application offerings. He is now looking at how such free applications can fit into an overall cloud computing strategy for the federal government. Indeed, much of the growth in the use of cloud computing in government overall will be in the area of “free” apps, such as switching from Microsoft Office to Google Apps. As Federal CIO Kundra recently observed, “it makes no sense to spend billions down the line when we can get these technologies for free.” But beyond Google’s offerings, the government will be seeking to leverage other free cloud resources. To that end, Kundra recently observed that: “We don’t need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on video and networks that have already been created. Facebook alone has 200 million users, 56 million users are in the U.S. There’s not a single Web site in the U.S. government that has that kind of reach and [Facebook users] are active on a daily basis.”
Thus, “free” is indeed a powerful concept, and one that both presents vast opportunities for growth – and a challenge to many of the established models and leading computing companies today. CIOs and top corporate executives will lead the way in increasingly asking that simple question “why pay when I (and my employees) can get it for free!” Thus, the free model will be an important shaper of IT strategy in the public and private sectors for the next decade.
Posted via email from Ippei’s @CloudNewsCenter info database