I happened upon an interesting article illustrating how the big pharmaceutical corporations are using Amazon Web Services, more specifically their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), to power cloud computing pilots. The article delves into how the Elastic Compute Cloud allows organizations to solve 'real world' problems in an efficient and quick manner. Most of this information was gleaned from the recent Bio-IT World Conference and Expo in Boston. Representatives from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and others were on hand to discuss issues facing the pharma industry.
Furthermore, it is interesting to add that "... while a number of vendors are offering on-demand computing and storage services, including Google, IBM, Rackspace, and others, all the pharma representatives who spoke at the conference said they were running their pilot projects on Amazon EC2."
The article goes on to highlight the various accomplishments via the cloud and how other players such as IBM have an opportunity to position themselves as cloud vendors. The cloud computing 'phenomenon' hasn't yet hit the tipping point in terms of mass market acceptance, so there is still room for others besides Amazon and Google to step in. I am a big fan of both Google's App Engine and Amazon's various web services including EC2.
I would like to see more enterprises experiment with these services at the very least. Certain industries can not take full advantage of the public or hybrid clouds because of security concerns, but even within those industries, small projects that are not sensitive to security can be tested in the cloud. Other industries are excellent candidates for full-on 'cloudification' - if that is even a word.
Virtualization helped enterprises take the first steps toward a more efficient infrastructure. The process does not end there, however. While efficiency is key, scalability and flexibility are also important. The biggest hurdle in migrating to a cloud infrastructure is application migration cost. Development is often the largest cost within an organization, and it is not very easy to jump to a new application platform. The cost is high, but the payoff is huge in the long run. The ability to deliver pooled resources behind applications instead of provision new hardware is worth the migration cost. The ability to then scale those resources and applications, or redirect resources on the fly is just icing on the cake. The cloud just makes sense - at least to those who get it.