A popular exercise these days is to question when Cloud Computing will become mainstream. We’ve all heard the refrains; Cloud technology is immature. Security concerns are holding back adoption. Demonstrating compliance is impossible in the cloud. Wrong on all counts.

Those who are still waiting for cloud computing to hit puberty are simply looking backward.
Just a sampling of recent evidence pointing to rapid cloud maturation:

• Amazon and Verizon both have PCI-compliant clouds. Meeting PCI requirements is tough for an average enterprise datacenter. Moving to the cloud allows an instant PCI-compliant infrastructure to grow the business.

• A recent Goldman Sachs reports states that 52% of all enterprises they surveyed have some percentage of their enterprise compute workload being delivered by external cloud providers.

• Rackspace (just one of the vendors called out in the Goldman survey) says it now has more than 100,000 cloud customers.

Whether the underlying technologies are Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS) – proven cloud offerings exist, and are being used by a broad range of organizations. The cloud is increasingly the right platform to deliver services, freeing IT managers from provisioning, management and cost allocation burdens.

Who really benefits?
Is a small merchant better served purchasing, assembling and maintaining all required technology on-site to meet compliance requirements? Can they find competent staff available with right expertise? Do they even have the budget to get there? And, if the small merchant is not compliant will anyone know until it’s too late?

Embracing existing cloud offerings, this same merchant can use a platform already designed for compliance, with provisioning, management, maintenance, assessment and reporting built-in. The technologies that are necessary to meet compliance mandates (e.g. firewalls, IPS, etc.) can be more efficiently managed when operational costs can be amortized across multiple customers. And, the cloud platform is immediately extensible, allowing the merchant to scale up during busy holiday periods without having to run out and buy more gear. Running in the cloud and delivered as a predicable-cost service, that small merchant compliance solution can now rival the larger competitors – allowing the small merchant to compete on a more level playing field.

For enterprises who are faced with data leakage concerns, inadequate protection of truly sensitive data, and relentless demands tablets and smartphones to access enterprise data, is it more timely and cost effective to retrofit to legacy technology, or rapidly design and implement a service that will scale with escalating business demands?

Consumerization is one of the biggest forces driving the use of cloud computing. Inflexible legacy network and applications were designed around an end-to-end ownership model, which has the enterprise controlling everything. This breaks down when consumers (i.e. your employees) want to use their own computers, tablets and smartphones.

Consumers get it. Business managers also see the benefits – and not just the superior economics. They like the flexibility and ability, as they don’t always know how their core business will change. The biggest challenge has been, at times, winning over the enterprise IT manager – persuading them to extend their infrastructure beyond the boundaries of their own data center.

One of the very best examples of how cloud computing is changing traditional mindsets, is that progressive organizations are re-visiting a key strategy: how do I best deliver desktops to large populations of users. A desktop delivered from the cloud (Desktop as a Service) can provide instant enterprise access from the myriad of devices being brought into the organization by users. With the data residing in a PCI-compliant cloud, the IT manager no longer has to worry about sensitive data residing on these user devices, which they neither own nor control.

I’m not advocating a “just throw it up in the cloud and you’ll be OK” position. Admittedly, not every problem has been solved to make all businesses comfortable pushing workloads into the cloud, but the majority of organizations can take advantage of cloud benefits today. But, there are those who continue to cling to the familiarity of the past. Their rationale seems to be “we know those problems.” (maybe because we caused them?). Instead of fighting progress and change – embrace it and innovate.

Anyone who says the cloud is in its infancy is obviously is grounded in the past and can’t see the forest through the trees.