The cloud is the limit

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Cloud computing has become a business critical issue that no IT leader can reject it

By JOHN OREDO

In a Microsoft memorandum of October 30, 2005 titled Internet Software Services,Bill Gates reminded Microsoft’s top managers and engineers that utility computing threatened to destroy its traditional business. Bill Gates warned that software was no longer something people need to install in their computers, but a utility supplied over the internet. Coincidentally, in the same year, Google was building a large data processing plant in Dalles, Northern Oregon. These two events ushered cloud computing into the public and business domains. Since then, cloud computing has become a business critical issue that no IT leader today can reject it.

The benefits that come with cloud adoption like increased functionality, flexibility and generally the delivery of IT resources as services cannot be ignored. While there are many technical definitions of cloud computing, here I provide a more business friendly understanding of what cloud computing is. Cloud computing is the acquisition of scarce IT resources needed by an organisation as services rather than through ownership. This is possible since cloud computing provides a model where computing services, both hardware and software are delivered on demand to customers over a network in a self service fashion.

These services can be consumed by users independent of location and device. Cloud computing therefore allows for the reclassification of information technology (IT) from an expensive capital expenditure to a pay-as-you-use operating expenditure. As noted by Nicholas Carr in his book “The Big Switch,” cloud computing enables organisations to get computing resources in the form of a utility just as we get electricity.

Migrating to the cloud

In order to benefit from cloud computing, organisations must approach its adoption with the same seriousness they apply to more traditional IT delivery mechanisms. Before migrating to cloud technology, an organisation should develop a coherent plan that details how and why they are deploying cloud computing and what role the migration will play in delivering on the wider corporate goals.

From the plan, an organisation will also identify which of its on- premise IT operations need to be taken to the cloud and to which type of cloud. While cloud computing is known to deliver better services, saves organisations money and deliver services faster, it has challenges that still make organisations drag their feet in adopting it. Top on the list is data security and control. With the on-premise IT approach, an organisation’s IT infrastructure and all the data in it are within its control. When planning to migrate to cloud technology, organisations must create a balance between their IT resources that can safely be taken to the cloud and those whose sensitivity dictate that they remain on-premise. Moving to the cloud should not be seen as an all-or-nothing proposition, as organisations can define their own degrees of commitment to the cloud.

A cloud approach to IT management involves finding a balance between what should be migrated and what should remain on-premise. For an organisation to get the right combination that brings the most business profit, the match making process must start with a deeper understanding of the cloud technology options. There are two major ways of characterising cloud computing from a business perspective. First, cloud computing can be characterised in terms of deployment models. These include public cloud, private cloud and hybrid. Second, cloud computing can be characterised in terms of service models. While there are many service models, the main ones are infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Cloud vendor

The public or Internet cloud is a multi-tenant cloud infrastructure. Services are provided by a third party or a cloud vendor. Multi-tenant here means that the cloud vendor can provide storage or even data processing services to several clients on a single machine through virtualisation. Public cloud is a typical starting point for many business enterprises beginning their cloud adoption journey. The major downside is that most of its services are generic and therefore not easy to customise to specific organisational business needs. If an organisation has data that needs enhanced security or more control, then it needs to set up a private cloud. Private or enterprise cloud is one that is set up within the company’s infrastructure for use by the company and its partners. Private cloud is usually run by an organisation’s own staff or a third party on its behalf. Unlike the public cloud that is available on a multi-tenancy basis, a private cloud operates on a single-tenancy and solely dedicated to the needs of an organisation. This gives an organisation more freedom for customisation and a much more protected environment. Unfortunately, these freedoms and control come at an extra cost compared to public cloud.

Your organisation can also benefit by adopting multiple cloud models- a hybrid. This is the best option when an organisation has highly proprietary business applications that are better kept in-house to preserve competitive advantage, but also needs generic apps like Google docs or office 365 available in the public cloud. An organisation should be in a position to evaluate its IT resources and determine what should reside in-house and what can be safely migrated to the cloud.

Cloud service or cloud business models provide software services that run on the cloud, eliminating the need to install them on the client’s computer. SaaS is software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers and offered on a pay-per-use pricing model. PaaS facilitates the development and deployment of applications by providing operating system support and software development frameworks.

PaaS can enable business applications to be developed and tested without buying and installing expensive software development kits. PaaS mainly targets business applications’ developers. IaaS comprise computing resources like computational power (processors) and data storage servers that can be virtualised and instances provided as a service. This is currently the most popular cloud service used by both individuals and organisations. Think of Google drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and there you are. Some of the main cloud computing providers are Google, Microsoft, Amazon and SalesForce. Deciding on which cloud deployment or service model to adopt will largely depend on an organisation’s business drivers. It is noteworthy that from a business perspective, cloud computing has risen from something to note to something to adopt, and will eventually be something for business transformation.

Email: john.oredo@gmail.com

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