Status of the Cloud

It’s been a while since I talked about the cloud, so I think it’s in need of a revisit. I know that at times talking about the cloud is like talking about air, pun intended, since that’s where actual clouds live. It’s just there all the time and has become so pervasive (or so it seems) that why talk about it again? Well there’s still lots of organizations that are trying to figure out their strategy around the cloud. To be sure, most organizations are at the very least starting to dabble in the cloud, but are looking at further direction and insight into how they could/should specifically be using it—if at all. So let’s talk about that today.

Everybody and anyone associated with IT products or services (us included) has a key story to tell about around the cloud. There are products—sometimes older SW products rebranded as cloud supported—or a cloud product that is a traditional product tweaked for cloud. Yes, we’ve seen that. But when it comes to services it can be a bit more or of a puzzle. Organizations think that when they go to the cloud that they need less in terms of services. Not necessarily true. You might need less of one type of service (or resource), but more of another. More on that later. My point being is that it’s not the cloud products or providers that are the puzzle but the perception on what they are and can do. Let’s explore that as well.

In the end cloud is just another way to deliver IT infrastructure or an IT service. That’s it. There can be much more to it, of course, but that’s what it boils down to. Conceptually, no different than traditional IT infrastructure, just delivered in a different way. Sure, there are different types: public, private and hybrid, each with its own advantages, but each has its disadvantages as well.

Here’s a summary:

Public cloud

Advantages
Automation and provisioning on-demand, quick time to value, scale up and down, low initial cost, cloud provider manages technology itself

Disadvantages
Expensive over time, security and HA/DR considerations, multitenant, so sharing resources with others, and vendor lock in making it hard to get down, retraining of resources

Private cloud

Advantages
Automation and provisioning on-demand, more control, own the HW/SW, security and DR handled locally, dedicated, not a shared multitenant environment, more control over environment than public cloud

Disadvantages
Large upfront costs as you own the HW/SW, scaling up eventually requires more HW/SW, local resources manage the technology, not a cloud provider


Hybrid cloud

Advantages
The best that both public and private have to offer, but big advantage is ability to scale up quickly as needed. Need a strong strategy in place to use effectively.

Disadvantages
As listed above for both public and private, but again, a strong strategy is need to be effective and successful.

And from the list above, you can see that there are goods and potential challenges around the cloud. People tend to think that the cloud is cheaper, more secure and more highly available than on-premise or traditional IT and that may or may not be the case. See my post on Myths around the Cloud that specifically discusses this. Going back to what I said before: as cloud is just IT infrastructure or a way to deliver an IT service, items such as security and HA or just as important–perhaps even more so, since the technology many not be onsite. You have to consider bandwidth, management, processes, standards, governance, etc. Lots to think about and address.

That being said the cloud is here and organizations are moving forward. SaaS solutions are a great way to go, such as Office 365, Salesforce, and ServiceNow as they make it very easy. But SaaS isn’t a new thing. You have a Gmail or Yahoo email address? You’ve got SaaS. My 18 year old Yahoo email address was cloud well before it was called cloud computing. PaaS? Platform as a Service just make sense unless already have lots of spare capacity lying around. Spinning up a new development environment? PaaS is the way to go. And with IaaS, again, it’s infrastructure. It can and does make sense for a lot of companies to go down this route, as long as they understand what they get and do not get–and are OK with it.

So the cloud does make sense, but depends on your environment, needs and even your politics; as politics always come into play. There are also lots service provides (us included) that have very strong opinions as to how organizations should or should not use the cloud. Listen to them all and do lots of research. You want the most objective information you can find so you can create and adhere to the right strategy for you and your cloud environment. Then adjust that strategy if needed. The cloud can be extremely valuable to an organization if done right. But the onus falls upon the organization and their partners to ensure that it is done right. And to do it right deeper conversations need to be had.

Let me know your thoughts and experiences around your cloud journey.

Andy Jonak
ajonak@vicomnet.com