Cloud 101: Is Cloud Computing right for your organization?

This is the fourth article in a series that introduces Cloud Computing. If you’ve not yet seen the first three articles, they are:

  1. Cloud 101: What is Cloud Computing?
  2. Cloud 101: The Three Service Models
  3. Cloud 101: The Four Deployment Models

An interesting question: “Is Cloud Computing right for your organization?”

A simple answer: “Yes.”

If only it were that simple! If you’ve been following along with my “Cloud 101” series, you now understand that “Cloud Computing” is not a one size fits all offering. There are multiple service models and multiple deployment options, and they can be mixed and matched in any combination. Not only that, within each service model there are many configuration options – take IaaS as an example.

Within the Infrastructure as a Service service model, you have “self-managed IaaS”, “lightly managed IaaS”, and “complex managed hosting”. You have the ability to deploy IaaS on physical hardware, you can use:

  • VMware with vCloud Director
  • Hyper-V with the System Center management suite
  • Xen with OpenStack
  • Amazon Web Services
  • RackSpace
  • GoDaddy
  • Terremark
  • Many, many more options!

The options listed above include private, community, and public offerings. You can mix and match for a hybrid solution. In short, there are countless options for deploying each of the different service models.

So…with that said, is there an option that’s right for your organization?

In my opinion, there is. It’s just a matter of identifying which option matches your needs. I’ll give a few example use cases to help you see what I mean. There’s no way I can cover everything – there are literally thousands of situations that could justify the use of Cloud Computing in your organization. Here are some to get you thinking about the needs within your organization (these are all viable reasons to use PUBLIC cloud!):

  • Development and Test environments
    This is where many organizations started their virtualization journey. It’s also a great place to begin your Cloud Computing journey. In “legacy” data centers, dev/test environments take a long time to stand up. There’s the long lead times for procurement, the installation & configuration, and then the “hand-off” to the dev/test team. In efficient organizations, this could happen within a month. Frequently, it was three months or longer. Virtualization helps. With virtualization, you can deploy VMs from templates and have an environment up and running in a matter of a few minutes to a few days. But with virtualization, you’re still responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and doing the necessary capacity planning to make sure you have enough infrastructure to meet the demands. Additionally, with a virtualized environment, you still have IT staff playing the role of intermediary/facilitator. Virtualization does not provide a self-service portal where an authorized user can go and fill out a request form and (assuming they have enough room in their budget) have a dev/test environment up and running in a few minutes — without your IT staff having to lift a finger.
  • Public facing website
    It’s a public facing website – you don’t have anything on it that is critical, do you? Why host it internally? Why use that bandwidth to feed static content about your company when you could be using it instead to process business transactions for your company? Why have YAOS (yet another OS) for your IT staff to have to manage? Along with the web platform on top of that. Let someone else do it for you. If you do it correctly, you might even save money in the process!
  • Electronic product delivery
    Think Netflix, iTunes, and the like. Your product is really pretty static. You’re shipping electronic “bits” to your customers who are (hopefully) widely distributed throughout the country or the world. This is a perfect use case for a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which falls into the category of IaaS.
  • Highly variable workloads
    If you have any task that uses a highly variable workload (i.e. busy at certain times, but doing nearly nothing at other times), do you want to have to purchase enough infrastructure to support the heaviest need? Wouldn’t it make more sense to run it in a Cloud environment where you can scale up or down as needed – and pay for the infrastructure only when you use it? Think IRS (or TurboTax, TaxAct, etc.) at tax time or pretty much any e-tailer over the holiday season.
  • Email
    One of the most basic of business needs, yet so frequently mismanaged. Do you really need to host your email in-house? For some of you, the answer will be yes, but for a large percentage, if you are truly honest with yourself, the answer will be no.
  • Disaster recovery
    You do have a disaster recovery plan, right? You could tell me – in the next 30 minutes – exactly who is going to do what when your data center is hit by a tornado, flood, or power outage, couldn’t you? And you’ve tested your plan to make sure it works (and not just once!), right? If you’re like a very large percentage of businesses out there, the answer is a resounding “NO WAY!”. Did you know that 70% of small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year? The costs of “traditional” disaster recovery” approaches are prohibitive for many small businesses, and painful for pretty much every business. Using Cloud-based services can significantly reduce the cost and dramatically improve your ability to respond – and recover – after a disaster strikes.

That’s just a small sample of the many reasons you might want to use public Cloud Computing. Private Cloud Computing can offer a totally different set of use cases. Rather than giving specific examples, let me just say this:

Private Cloud Computing can be used to support any IT need. You may (probably will) have to modify some/many of your IT policies and procedures, but private cloud can add value.

I’m sure I’ll get some pushback on that statement, but it’s the truth! The biggest thing to keep in mind is that, in order to get the most bang for the buck out of Cloud Computing, you have to standardize and automate. Going through the process of standardizing and automating will significantly enhance your IT staff’s ability to meet consumer demand.

What it really boils down to is this:

If you don’t have a really good reason to not use Cloud Computing, you should be using it! Even if you have “sensitive data”, you can host it in a private cloud. The benefits derived through the use of Cloud Computing are substantial. You may not save money (in fact, at times it’s more expensive to use Cloud Computing – your mileage may vary!); however, you will gain flexibility, agility, scalability, and survivability, assuming you take the time to do it right.

OK, that wraps this edition. There is one more to go in the Cloud 101 series. Next time around, we’ll talk about your organization is ready for Cloud Computing. Stay tuned, it should be fun :)!

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About Ken Cline

vExpert 2009

2 responses to “Cloud 101: Is Cloud Computing right for your organization?”

  1. Chris Alano says :

    Hi Ken. Thanks for this. I saw your blog post and got a lot from it. Quick Question though – where does DaaS fall in these three types of Cloud Computing?

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