Cloud computing like atmospheric phenomena can be either a grey area or full of light and promise. The Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA), an international trade organization focused on commercial advancement of cloud computing and related technologies, sponsored discussions at CES that touched on the pros and cons of cloud computing.

Problems seen as barriers to embracing cloud computing are security, reliability, and for enterprise systems, lack of control by IT. Benefits to a business include scale and cost. Long term CapEx (capital expenditure) is being weighed against day-to-day OpEx (operational expenses) when a business considers moving to the cloud. Speakers touched on these topics and others.

Sam Rosen of ABI Research quipped that ?CE? now stands for Cloud Electronics. That cloud must be viewed from two perspectives, that of the enterprise system and that of the consumer. The consumer side of the cloud has evolved to include music, photos, video, gaming and social networking. Yet, we were told that the connected home attempt has failed because standards are fragmented, vendor products are not interoperable, portability from business to home to auto is lacking, and user experience has been unsatisfactory.

Separately, however, music and gaming are big pluses for cloud use. Music streaming revenues from purchases, internet radio, digital lockers and on-demand have increased globally from zip in 2010, gradually increasing through 2013, to an enormous jump projected in the high volume areas of the world by 2018. Cloud gaming is another positive arena. It has progressed from multi-player, such as Playstation Network, to a hybrid such as Zynga, to pure cloud activity.

On the enterprise side, benefits of the cloud for operators include scale due to architecture flexibility, speed of deployment, and asset control and catalog extension. However, Reza Rassool of Kwaii, a start-up professional focusing on digital media and entertainment, discussed challenges. Specifically he pointed to performance which he related to Hooke?s Law of elasticity and how the cloud responds to a load. Load times fluctuate. They affect bounce rates and can be part of the reason shopping carts are left standing in the aisle so to speak with uncompleted checkouts and lost sales. Bandwidth is called into question.

Rosen stated that the goal is to get content from anywhere to anywhere. Apple and Google led the way, but Amazon/Kindle is also a player. GCE (Google Compute Engine) and EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) are competitors in the arena and bring different approaches to cloud computing. Organizations find that the cloud has a big impact on the character of IT. DCIA says that practices such as remote working, accessing work data from any device and allowing access to real-time data streams are only possible with cloud computing technology.

This panel primarily looked at the cloud in relation to telecommunications

Melody Yuhn, CTO at CSS Corp a technology consulting and support company, indicated that mobile security and personal data sharing was a concern, as was bandwidth performance. David Hassoun from RealEyes Media, which specializes in streaming media echoed Yuhn?s concern over security as did most on the panel.

Andy Gottlieb of Aryaka which offers cloud network as a service, also brought up bandwidth as being more of a problem for enterprise users than for consumers. Mobile devices work over a longer distance which has to contend with latency packet loss. Jay Gleason of Sprint agrees, ?Wireless won?t cut it on latency issues.?

Larry Freedman, attorney with Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, expanded on the security concern noting that security differs for wireless and that the perception between wireless and wireline comes into play. Wireless enhances the value of the cloud with business. However in his words: the fiber optic supply and platform ?kick butt over wireless?. Freedman mentioned what effect the loss of government subsidies will have on telecommunications and cloud companies. Telco regulations are being re-evaluated. Telcos could beneficially partner with a cloud company [as seen with Sprint?s recent announcement of its intent to add unlimited cloud storage to its suite of services].

Gleason concurred that telco?s are being squeezed for revenue. They need to be able to provide more services to the customer. Offering the cloud helps get them off the support line and turns them to other means of generating income, for example simply charging $5 to set up connected services.

He acknowledged that the customer wants speed, they want it fast. CIO?s and CEO?s who want to get on the cloud are concerned that data will available when they need it. Also what will the SLA?s (Service Level Agreement)entail from their network service provider. Additionally, IT has lost control over the desktop. Tablets are taking the place of PC?s. Management wants the mobile provider to secure the mobile devices that contain personal and company proprietary information.

Security and privacy are repeated concerns when you talk about cloud computing. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and PCI (Payment Card Industry) illustrate those two items as being the biggest barrier to deploying the cloud, followed by cost and time involved.

Grant Kirkwood of Unitas Global a provider of enterprise private cloud and IT outsourcing solutions, pointed out the irony of the cloud ? we have come full circle, what was an old approach in technology is new again. On topic, he said wireless raises challenges, such as spikes in loads and performance. He cited the need to build infrastructure as evidenced by 100,000 plus users at CES and the slow delivery times we all experienced at the show. It is not that all pieces have to fit together he opined. What is needed is one whole solution.

The future of cloud computing can?t be denied. Mobile utilization is increasing, GPU based cloud solutions are growing, Wi-Fi will improve, and more industry consolidation and cooperation is expected. Challenges are being overcome, Benefits are being realized. With the Cloud, the sky?s the limit.