While it’s true that cloud computing offers new levels of capability across the business spectrum, the ideal characteristics that users hope the cloud will deliver are a constant work-in-progress. Current economic circumstances continue to drive the demand for a more effective model of delivering applications and computing services.
Yet while the technology evolves, users encounter a range of cloud experiences, both positive and negative. As a result, a number of users and organizations still question the reality of what the cloud can deliver.
This series of posts explores some of the early drivers of cloud services and how they influenced current expectations. We’ll look at how different technologies helped create those promises—some that have been realized, and others that haven’t. Finally, we’ll learn about the current realities of cloud computing as they relate to data control, performance, security, and ROI.
What Is the Cloud?
Cloud computing is a result of the development and convergence of a number of technologies, such as grid computing, virtualization, hosting services, service-oriented architecture (SOA), software as a service (SaaS), and utility computing. Cloud-based offerings feature a number of different attributes and include the following:
- Scaled infrastructures
- Easily purchased and billable services
- Multi-tenant framework for diverse clientele
- Dynamic, configurable resources
Today’s increased focus on outcomes and consumption models means that public cloud providers must employ every available approach to streamline efficiency and deliver cost-effective products. These approaches consist of specific design models, architectures, technologies, and best practices to ensure their service succeeds. While this is especially good news for consumers and organizations, it also bodes well for the ongoing development and growth of the cloud.
As the cloud phenomenon continues to evolve, a number of questions have yet to be answered. Some of these include:
- How will cloud computing evolve as global connectivity expands?
- What will full-scale adoption mean for individual companies?
- Can cloud computing meet the increasing complexity of the business-service model?
- How will cloud computing transform markets and industries as it develops?
Cloud storage services offer the means for storage provisioning that no longer require users to purchase farms of storage networks and servers. Applications can be provided through SaaS providers, alleviating the need for software and license purchases. Fundamentally, this reflects a significant change in how individual users and companies use technology and interact with each other, now and in the future.
Promises of Cloud Computing
The cost savings that cloud offers to companies can take a number of forms. However, some of the key ways that cloud can increase financial benefits for an enterprise are:
- Reduce operational costs by increasing data center automation
- Forgo capital investment for IT projects/provider performs datacenter management
- Decrease in costs for application deployment
- Shift resource allocation according to market fluctuations
- Increase investments in business initiatives over data center management
Software development represents an important way that cloud can help companies achieve a true competitive advantage. Cloud computing services speed up new application development by delivering software in terms of minutes and hours, as opposed to days and months. The massive scale on which cloud providers operate also means that large-scale applications can be swiftly developed. Software development represents an area where cloud easily meets, if not exceeds, expectations.
Many companies will eventually find themselves confronting the question: Which services should be moved to the cloud and when? Ultimately, the answer needs to balance both the risks and rewards. The cloud’s elastic scalability allows businesses to:
- Serve larger audiences
- Solve bigger, more challenging problems
- Provide on-demand computing capacity
- Ramp-up and grow new projects as needed
The cloud’s computational power provides companies with an exponential increase in the number of applications offered and users served. This not only adds broad efficiency to a company’s business processes, it can also profoundly alter internal relationships.
Previously, when it came to software updates, back-ups, and storage distribution, hands-on IT maintenance was an integral part. Now, cloud automation of maintenance tasks is extensive. Thus, there’s less need to add skills or technologies; you can leverage those you already have in place.
Infrastructure Simplification/IT Freedom
Cloud computing shifts the emphasis from static, stand-alone application silos in an enterprise to dynamic, shared environments. The virtual datacenter in a public cloud environment can significantly transform an enterprise infrastructure. Some of the ways include:
- Increased access to CPU cycles/decreased need to purchase more computers
- More data storage without adding onsite servers or extra physical storage
- Automation capability frees up IT
- Agile response to market fluctuations, reduced time-to-market
- Lower-cost application deployment
As mentioned previously, cloud offers the ability to consolidate IT resources, enables access for multiple users, and provides a common infrastructure for numerous applications. In this regard, multi-tenancy is a key attribute of both public and private clouds. It applies to all three layers of a cloud: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In contrast to a single-use server that runs one application per user, (i.e., single-tenancy), multi-tenancy disallows any changes to be made to software code by users. Providers can easily perform single updates to affect all instances of the software, passing on the cost benefits to companies.
Reposted with permission from The Cloud: Promises and Realities by Kerry Doyle