Companies use the term “Cloud Computing” or “The Cloud” to describe almost any technology in an effort to cash in on the latest buzz words, and often what they are selling is just a rebadged product. This has led to a lot of confusion, and most people will find it difficult to explain what the Cloud actually is, and the benefits that it can bring to a business.
It is generally accepted that, for a product to be considered “Cloud”, it must meet all five of the following characteristics:
- On-demand self-service – provisioning and administration.
- Broad network access – the potential to access from anywhere from anything
- Elastic scalability – the dynamic allocation of computing resources
- Resource pooling – shared computing resources
- Measured service – pricing models based on usage
There are three recognised deployment methods for Cloud Computing:
- Public Cloud – access a multi-tenant pool of shared resources
- Private Cloud – access a dedicated pool of resources, hosted or on premise
- Hybrid Cloud – mixture of the scalability of public and security of private clouds
As the term “the Cloud” has become popularised, it has also become fashionable to add “as-a-service” to the end of any product that is delivered over the internet. This adds further confusion, when you are trying to determine a Cloud strategy.
Cutting through terminology, there are three fundamental types of cloud services that form the “Cloud Stack”, and everything else is just a variation on a theme:
- Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS) – server, storage, network delivered as a service
- Platform As A Service (PaaS) – middleware, database and development tools
- Software As A Service (SaaS) – software applications delivered to a browser
Your Cloud strategy probably won’t be limited to one deployment method, element of the Cloud Stack, or single provider, instead it will be a mixture, blended to meet the requirements of your particular business.
Always remember that the Cloud is basically a managed service that you are renting. You aren’t getting just a Gb of storage, a virtual server, network bandwidth, an email box or an application license, you’re getting a wrapped managed service that gives you the capability of using any of these products.
If you are investigating how to move your infrastructure investment into the Cloud, you will probably find that there is a balance point between the cost of implementing a hosted Cloud strategy and that of an on-premise Cloud strategy.
You need to take care when calculating the return on investment. Don’t just assume that you will be lifting and shifting your current infrastructure into the Cloud, as this will almost certainly work out to be prohibitively expensive. You need to ensure that you factor in the optimisation of your infrastructure.
Additionally, you need to ensure that you calculate your return on investment over a period of time that also factors any potential growth and upgrade of your on-premise infrastructure, as one of the benefits of a Cloud strategy is that you don’t have to carry this investment.
Make sure you are being realistic when you assess your ability to manage and optimise your potential shift to the Cloud. You will probably find out that there aren’t as many environments that can be switched off for a period of time to save costs than you think.
You also need to look at whether one of the reasons you are looking at a hosted Cloud option is because your internal teams don’t have the agility to provide an internal managed service. There needs to be consideration whether it is possible, or practical, to deliver similar benefits on-premise, for a lower cost, than a hosted Cloud solution.
Finally, the move to the Cloud will probably result in the introduction of at least one, and probably more, additional managed service suppliers. It is essential that you have better Supplier Relationship Management in place and consider taking a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) approach to managing multiple suppliers. This will allow you to seamlessly integrate the interdependent services from various internal and external service providers into a single business-facing IT organisation.
To summarise, the Cloud means different things to different people. When looking to develop a strategy, you need to clearly define your understanding of the Cloud and avoid making too many assumptions, especially about your internal capabilities. Be very careful when looking at the return on investment. The adoption of a Cloud strategy is essential for most businesses, while the costs may not initially seem to add up, there are options that can make the strategy work, and the benefits for the business, of agility and flexibility, outweigh the challenges.
If you would like to find out how iCore can help you with a migration to the Cloud then contact us on 0207 868 2405.