Cloud Computing - Utility Let Loose!
The Internet has matured from originally providing static content though dynamic content/eCommerce to Social Networking and Web 2.0 and now the emergence of providing the core IT Infrastructure for running business applications and services that historically have been provided from dedicated infrastructure within the enterprise or within the Data Centre of a hosting partner or outsourcer (deep breath).
Or in other words - Cloud Computing.
In simplest terms, Cloud Computing is the use of the Internet ("cloud") to provide access to compute/storage/application resources for a variety of services. It offers that IT infrastructure transparently from data centres that could be anywhere on the globe and to which there is no direct connectivity. The infrastructure can be dynamically scalable usually through the use of virtualisation resources and automated provisioning and metering mechanisms which provide users with "self service" and "on demand" IT - both of which have been long held aspirations of utility compute models. In fact Cloud could be seen as the maturing of Utility Computing scaled up and let loose on the Internet. The principles of both are very similar with subscription or usage/metered based commercial models.
Users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the underlying infrastructure "in the cloud" that supports them. The concept incorporates software as a service (SaaS), Web 2.0 and other recent, well-known trends, in which the common theme is reliance on Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users. Often-quoted examples are Salesforce.com and Google Apps which provide common business applications accessed through a web browser online and Amazon online services which provides server/storage infrastructure onto which users can develop and deploy their own applications. Others are coming with their own cloud services, including Microsoft's Business Process Online Services (BPOS) amalgam of hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Office Comms Services All share the same principle of the software and data being stored on physical servers and storage in a location that is completely transparent to the user.
Potential drivers for the adoption of "cloud" into the enterprise are: - Cost reduction - flexibility - Standardisation and automation - Speed of deployment and decommissioning - Scalability on demand paid for only when needed - Opex rather than capex commercial model
Potential blockers (perceived or otherwise) are: - Security and compliance requirements both with offshore hosted data and the security/user ID & authentication models applied - Loss of control of the IT estate and key corporate data assets - Implications of sharing within a mutli tenanted environment and unforeseen impact - Insufficient or lack of SLA/availability models - "One size fits all" - "you can have any server as long as it's black" - Backup/recovery regimes - how do you test? - DR regimes - how do you test? - No internet, no IT.
The likelihood is that many organisations in the large enterprise space will see the cloud as an additional potential IT Resource where there may be a sweet spot that leverages the upside without the risk of the pitfalls being a showstopper. However, at SMB levels there is the potential to take the complete IT infrastructure outside of the corporate boundary with the ability to enjoy "enterprise grade" IT for an affordable outlay. This could in turn put a sizable risk on the business continuity of large numbers of businesses in the hands of a relatively few "mega vendors" which raises a whole new set of questions for a future blog post!