Five Things To Know About Cloud Computing An Advanced Systems Group White Paper
Cloud computing has recently emerged as a hot trend, right alongside virtualization and service-oriented architecture (SOA). It’s so new, in fact, that its precise definition is still as nebulous as its name suggests. Generally speaking, cloud computing offers you the ability to deploy applications, systems, and IT resources as services that reside in a global connected network—the “cloud.” You can pull resources from the cloud whenever you need them, and you pay only for what you use. Depending on the type of cloud computing, these services may exist somewhere beyond the corporate firewall. With cloud services, you can scale your IT resources quickly and endlessly. If you suddenly need to process more data, you can add more CPUs. If you need to store more data beyond your own disk capacity, you can pull additional storage capacity from the cloud. After peak usage hours, you can just as quickly and easily scale down when you need fewer IT resources. It’s basically the next phase of service-oriented IT. As with any nascent technology, much remains in flux. The simple truth is that cloud computing is beset by evolving standards, varied pricing models, and unknown or disputed best practices. As a result, market misinformation abounds, causing confusion for organizations that might otherwise benefit from this new technology.
Cloud computing is destined to become part of almost every organization’s IT strategy. Eventually, users won’t even differentiate between what comes from the cloud and what doesn’t. In the meantime, here are five tips to help you find your way through the fog of marketing propaganda.
Five Things To Know About Cloud Computing: 1. There are many ways to accomplish cloud computing. 2. Cloud computing has a recognized value proposition. 3. Cloud computing doesn’t expose your data. 4. Cloud computing solutions vary greatly in price. 5. Certain projects benefit from cloud computing.
There Are Many Ways To Accomplish Cloud Computing
Even now, there’s a type of cloud computing for almost every need, and we can expect more to come. Presently, we can identify at least four general types of cloud computing. Together, these form what you can call “IT as a service.” Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)—IaaS includes servers, networks, storage, management, and reporting. You might know Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (E2C) as an IaaS provider, but there are others as well. Platform as a Service (PaaS)—This type of cloud computing addresses the needs of application development and testing by providing building blocks, enforcing consistent standards, and facilitating testing. Currently, App Engine from Google is the most well-known PaaS provider.
Cloud computing is beset by evolving standards, varied pricing models, and unknown or disputed best practices. As a result, market misinformation abounds, causing confusion for organizations that might otherwise benefit from this new technology.
Software as a Service (SaaS)—SaaS cloud computing delivers packaged applications configured by each customer that run as a hosted service. Although there are hundreds of SaaS providers, Google Apps and Salesforce.com are the current market leaders. Storage as a Service (StaaS)—StaaS is similar to IaaS, but it’s focused on storage delivered as a hosted service. It includes primary, secondary, and archival storage as well as backup and disaster recovery. Popular StaaS providers include Amazon S3, Nirvanix, and Rackspace.
Cloud Computing Has a Recognized Value Proposition
Although cloud computing still requires more work refining its value proposition, we can already identify a few key elements. These recognized value propositions include the ability to:
Cloud computing effectively shifts IT investment from a capital expenditure (CAPEX) to an operational expense (OPEX). In practice, the cloud provides a way for companies to find the optimal balance between their CAPEX and OPEX IT resources and to shift that balance as needed.
Access IT resources without upfront capital investment—Companies can easily and quickly obtain IT resources of all sorts without the upfront capital investment usually required or involvement in long term leasing. The cloud offers IT resources on demand. Employ the pay-per-use model—Companies pay only for the IT resources they actually use, when they use them. This eliminates the common practice of buying extra IT resources that companies may never need. Innovate more easily by removing IT barriers—Organizations can pursue business strategies without worrying about having the necessary IT resources available when they need them. Scale up or down easily—With cloud computing, organizations can quickly and easily respond to fluctuations in the economy, markets, customer behaviors, and unexpected events by scaling their IT resources up or down as needed. Cloud computing effectively shifts IT investment from a capital expenditure (CAPEX) to an operational expense (OPEX). In practice, the cloud provides a way for companies to find the optimal balance between their CAPEX and OPEX IT resources and to shift that balance as needed.
Cloud Computing Doesn’t Expose Your Data
It’s true that if you implement a cloud computing solution, your organization’s data will reside in the cloud, but that doesn’t necessarily leave it more exposed than when it resides behind the corporate firewall. In fact, the most egregious losses of data happened when the data was supposedly safe behind a company firewall, under the direct control of in-house IT people—like the TJX Companies data breach in 2007.¹ Plus, cloud computing can take three different forms, and each has a different amount of public exposure: Private—With private cloud computing, data sits behind a corporate firewall, and companies directly control the amount of exposure.
¹ http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9014782/TJX_data_breach_At_45.6M_card_numbers_it_s_the_biggest_ever? taxonomyId=17&pageNumber=1
It’s true that if you implement a cloud computing solution, your organization’s data will reside in the cloud—but that doesn’t necessarily leave it more exposed than when it resides behind the corporate firewall.
Public—Public cloud computing means that data sits in a publicly exposed cloud. Security depends on the service provider’s level of security, precautions, and defenses. Hybrid— In hybrid clouds, some data resides on a private cloud, while other data resides on a public cloud. Security depends on both companies’ internal security controls and those of the cloud provider. If you’re considering implementing cloud computing—and especially if you have sensitive data— you should carefully review the security capabilities of possible cloud service providers and balance any participation in private, public, and hybrid clouds accordingly.
Cloud Computing Solutions Vary Greatly In Price
If you’re considering implementing cloud computing —and especially if you have sensitive data— you should carefully review the security capabilities of possible cloud service providers and balance any participation in private, public, and hybrid clouds accordingly.
The costs of cloud computing scale the whole price range from the inexpensive to the very expensive. Because cloud pricing models and the prices themselves can be deceiving, it helps to understand the various cloud pricing approaches. For example, a StaaS provider might charge 17¢ per GB for the first 10 TB of data. But if you exceed 150 TB per month, the price could drop as low as 10¢ per GB. For organizations consuming 10-100 terabytes, or even petabytes of storage, those pennies add up to a significant savings. Plus, you avoid load balancing, dedicated VLANs and firewalls, role-based permissions, and tech support altogether. In many ways the financial decision is comparable to buying a car versus participating in a car sharing program, like Zipcar.® You can think of car sharing as the cloud equivalent for obtaining car resources. Sometimes it’s the better deal for your particular need, and sometimes it’s not. It depends on the provider, how much of the resource you need, and what additional features you want. But one thing is certain: A well-managed, efficient IT operation beats cloud costs in many instances, so organizations with efficient enterprise data centers may not find the savings from cloud computing compelling. For these companies, cloud computing will merely be one component in their overall IT strategy, only used where it is most cost-effective. Small and midsize organizations, on the other hand, can benefit immediately from cloud computing.
Certain Projects Benefit From Cloud Computing
Generally, jobs that process data for projects that are dormant or no longer generating revenue make good candidates for the cloud infrastructure. Other types of projects that appear to benefit from cloud computing include: • Web-facing applications • Backup and recovery • Data archiving • Content distribution • Supplemental IT resources
A well-managed, efficient IT operation beats cloud costs in many instances, so organizations with efficient enterprise data centers may not find the savings from cloud computing compelling. Small and midsize organizations, on the other hand, can benefit immediately from cloud computing.
Mainstream Adoption? According to the Gartner’s “Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies,” cloud computing currently is at the peak of inflated expectations, just about to reach the trough of disillusionment. ² Exciting new technologies typically follow this path. Cloud computing may take another five years before it reaches full maturity and mainstream adoption. In order to reach that point, cloud computing will need to be more cost-competitive with well-managed enterprise IT data centers. Also, it will have to address the security, reliability, and integration issues with other enterprise back-end systems. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that companies can’t take advantage of cloud resources today. Many organizations already successfully leverage cloud resources to avoid capital expenses, achieve better backup and recovery, meet compliance mandates for archiving, and access applications on a pay-per-use or subscription basis.
Many organizations already successfully leverage cloud resources to avoid capital expenses, achieve better backup and recovery, meet compliance mandates for archiving, and access applications on a pay-per-use or subscription basis.
About the Author Mark Teter is the Chief Technology Officer at Advanced Systems Group. He is an internationally recognized authority on information technology who regularly advises IT organizations, vendors, and government agencies on a broad range of information management issues. Each year, Mark conducts dozens of seminars and training programs for corporate and government institutions. He sits on several financial industry advisory boards and has recently published Paradigm Shift: Seven Keys of Highly Successful Linux and Open Source Adoptions.
About Advanced Systems Group Since 1981, Advanced Systems Group (ASG) has been providing comprehensive consulting services, successful storage and data management solutions, assessments, and implementation services to help customers meet today’s IT & business challenges. In particular, ASG focuses on customer needs, customizing unique solutions and successfully addressing companies’ particular IT challenges. As a consistent member of the VAR Business Top 500, ASG pursues active involvement in the industry, maintaining the highest level of engineering certifications with partners and the vendor community.
²Gartner’s Hype Cycle Special Report for 2009 http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1124212
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