Our industry has seen significant developments in the cloud-computing arena over the past four years. We do have an adequate understanding of the context and applications of this emerging paradigm. Also, several conferences and Internet forums have demonstrated the benefits of cloud computing over the past few years.

With all these developments, CTOs and CIOs have come to terms with this evolution and become curious to see ‘Optimization through cloud computing’ (in short, “Clouptimization”). Irrefutably, Clouptimization is going to be the strategic force of 2012 in our industry. Let me share my opinion on how product engineering businesses, enterprise IT departments and other entities can leverage the benefits of the cloud during 2012 and future years.

End-of-life products and non-critical IT applications consume significant computing power, software licenses, storage space and other resources when maintained in-house. Compared to the rest, these products or applications must have had longer lives that they will need to move into retirement homes for optimal maintenance.

A promising option is to consider a service provider that can host such long-lived entities in a private cloud. Another option is to consider a public cloud provider. This is the first step that will enable CTOs and CIOs to realize optimization and focus on new products and applications.

Almost all large businesses deal with voluminous digital content in various forms, including text, graphics, audio and video spread across several data centers in different locations. Classifying and consolidating non-critical digital assets and hosting them on a private cloud will enable optimization. Storage consumption can be on a perpetual basis or on an as-needed basis. It happens in real life, right?

The next one on our list is related to the hosting of corporate home pages or marketing centers. Our ancestors used to guard expensive jewelry and precious metals at home. In the post-industrial era, the concept of lockers in banks or other financial institutions became popular. Our parents and grandparents must have had inhibitions about keeping their valuables in a locker at a bank when this concept was new. As time passed, the demand for bank lockers increased and nowadays customers wait several months to acquire one.

These days, every company hosts its own home page and marketing centers on central servers. These are very valuable. However, it is time to think about leveraging the benefits and flexibility offered in the cloud for hosting websites and marketing activities on cloud.

Secure cloud applications in a pay-per-use model for corporate communication, including e-mail, chat, video and teleconferencing, will revolutionize the industry in future. With such applications in place, businesses will find cloud computing a promising avenue to realize ROI when compared to the traditional way of maintaining expensive servers and products for communication.

Media and entertainment have been one of the coveted categories of applications on the Internet. Entertainment through audio, video, collaborative games and second-life amusements do hold a place in the cloud. And the reason is compelling, considering the benefits the cloud can offer in terms of cost savings and convenience.

Long ago, people used to eat at home and go out to either watch movies or see some other form of entertainment. After some years, the trend changed. We started accumulating media at home and going out to eat. Later, it changed again; we see movies on demand and order our food through a smartphone via the Internet.

Training or learning is another area where both businesses and academia can leverage the benefits of cloud. There are close to 10,000 universities across the world. When we include all private colleges and professional institutions, the count multiplies. Guess the benefit of consolidating all digital learning material and applications on a handful of cloud ecosystems per country. This initiative will not only relieve educational institutions from their ongoing budget constraints, but also help them become cost-effective.

How can we forget childcare and other ceremonies? We step out of our homes and seek specialized services for these cases. If you guessed right, I am hinting at new application or product development, as well as projects that involve niche activities such as performance and scalability testing. It is worth doing these on the cloud as long as they are not prohibited by internal policies or compliance rules.

You must have thought of doing many of these already. If you haven’t, join the cloud bandwagon sooner rather than later!

“Betterment of conditions the world over is not essentially dependent on scientific knowledge but on the fulfillment of human traditions and ideas,” said Albert Einstein. Cloud computing has crossed the chasm. Also, it has evolved in the Internet era through open discussions, ideas and criticisms. Its evolution resembles the evolution of human lives and cultures, and hence it helps us in the process of sense making as well. Cloud adoption during 2012 will become a way of life in IT industry. It is a no-brainer that one must leverage low-hanging fruit in order to reap the benefits of what the cloud can bring to the table. Meanwhile, vendors and providers need to better understand the needs and buying criteria of customers, and introduce offerings that can foster adoption.

Raja Bavani heads delivery for MindTree’s Software Product Engineering group in Pune, India, and also plays the role of SPE evangelist.