You’ve heard it before. If you ask six “experts” to define the Cloud you will get six different answers. It is hard to get a handle on what the Cloud is because it is not a product, it is a concept. I approach the Cloud from a business perspective: what business problems can the Cloud solve. Because I can only remember three things at a time, I concentrate on the top three reasons to go to the Cloud:
- Reduce your Accounting woes by allowing a clear correlation between costs and revenue or value, primarily by moving capital expenses to operational expenses, while usually saving significantly on the total cost of providing IT services.
- Increase your organization’s Agility by allowing you to add additional resources “at the flick of a switch,” often in minutes, and potentially without any explicit direction from you. The need for additional resources triggers the “appearance” of the necessary resources, automatically.
- Eliminate much of the Aggravation inherent in running your own IT department by moving that responsibility to another organization, the Cloud Service Provider. IT is the CSP’s core competency, and they are usually very good at it.
Of course the Cloud is not the answer to everything. The three major objections that people talk to me about are:
- Security: Can they secure their data appropriately?
- Performance: Can they get the necessary performance in the Cloud?
- Availability: Will the Cloud, and their application, be there when needed?
The definition of Cloud Computing that I use most often is from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology, formerly the National Bureau of Standard, part of the United States Department of Commerce):
Cloud computing is a pay-for-use model for enabling available, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
The key characteristics of the Cloud are:
- On-demand self-service
- Ubiquitous network access
- Location-independent resource pooling
- Rapid elasticity
Again, you will get different descriptions of these characteristics from different people, especially when they have some product for the Cloud, or with “Cloud” in its name.
CRN recently posted a short video where they asked 12 people what is the first word that comes to their mind when their heard “Cloud.” These people are from major companies involved in the Cloud, such as Cisco, Juniper, Novell, IBM, and Microsoft. Some of the answers:
But the one word that really resonates with me came from two of the respondents: “opportunity.” The Cloud gives you the opportunity to reduce your accounting woes, increase your agility, and reduce your aggravation. It also gives you the opportunity to have security, performance or availability problems.
Like any other opportunity, the Cloud has to be understood in your own organization’s context and used appropriately. With the right planning, the Cloud can provide positive benefit to your company.
The last word:
The economy is uncertain, and likely to stay uncertain for longer than we want. There is a lot of chaos out there, and more being generated every day. Out of chaos sometimes comes a real growth. Or more belt tightening. Either way, the Cloud can help by matching your IT costs with your IT usage, by giving you the ability to immediately respond to business opportunities without worrying if your IT is ready, and by allowing you to concentrate on your core business, not IT.
Keep your sense of humor.