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October 01, 2010

A Crazy Little Thing Called Cloud

As Erin Harrison pointed out in her Editor’s Letter, the somewhat ambiguous “cloud” can help level the playing field, allowing smaller companies to compete with larger, financially more secure, and often more established entities.

But, as Joel Christner (News - Alert), Chief Scientist at StorSimple, notes, many businesses are remain torn as to whether they should embrace cloud computing, largely because they are unsure what to do with their traditional on-premises applications and technology.

It’s really a question of maximizing return on those existing investments but, as businesses grow, the applications they use grow with respect to their features, size, storage requirements, and processing demands. At some point, migrating to a cloud environment becomes a very reasonable approach, given its infinite scalability and cost effectiveness, particularly when compared to expanding on-premises infrastructures.

Part of the challenge businesses face is they aren’t really sure what “the cloud” is – it’s hard to make a business case for migrating to a new technology that is hard to define. At the heart of the matter, perhaps, is the idea that the cloud is a thing.

Businesses need to view the cloud as a business model rather than a new technology. It may be a consumption model or a distribution model but, as Margaret Dawson, vice president of marketing at Hubspan notes, it doesn’t solve business problems on its own.

“Companies still need to figure out with IT to help my business,” she explains. “Maybe it’s CRM, maybe it’s an ERP upgrade, maybe it’s a data center move, but it has to be relevant to some business challenge businesses are trying to solve.”

The cloud, in essence, becomes merely another delivery option for the technologies to solve those business challenges, allowing businesses to deliver applications and services quickly and efficiently, and scaling without impacting their existing infrastructure.

Despite the difficulties with defining “the cloud,” businesses are increasingly looking to leverage the cost savings, scalability, flexibility, and time to market cloud technologies offer for customers as well as internal users.

“People are really starting to accept it, and it’s no longer just a theoretical possibility,” says Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of Rackspace Cloud. “It’s good for the industry because there is real power in cloud technology.”

Much of the momentum that has built around cloud technologies is a result of ecosystems that are being developed embracing cloud technologies, with entities like the Cloud Security Alliance and Cloud Communications Alliance bringing together well-known vendors to increase awareness of the value and power of cloud computing and driving industry certifications for cloud technologies that create a sense of comfort among potential users.

“Eight companies came together, with similar designs and technologies, to find a way to take the cloud infrastructure and really move it forward in a next generation way,” says Dean Parker (News - Alert), president and CEO of Callis, which is part of the Cloud Communications Alliance.

With all the focus on cloud technologies and all their benefits, though, businesses must be careful to evaluate all their options. The cloud isn’t the right choice for every business – it has to be aligned with business strategies and goals, and goes back to the main IT challenges businesses are trying to solve. Evidence suggests businesses are taking the right approach and are looking to educate themselves as to how the cloud can allow them to become more competitive.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of people trying to sort out how cloud technologies can be applied to their businesses,” says Stoneware CEO Rick German. “People are looking at how to deliver IT services better and more efficiently using cloud technologies.” IT


Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
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