(This article originally appeared in infoTECH Magazine)
The latest trend in IT heads toward the cloud; the on-demand, off-premise, self-service computing model that promises to replace the traditional data center. Who wouldn’t want to spend less on hardware, software and management yet not lose capabilities? Companies like Netflix and Zynga (News - Alert) have already made the move to these services, realizing cost savings while gaining increased flexibility and speed to market. Public cloud providers like Amazon can provide this service by reaching farther into different offerings and by sharing resources among many different users.
The major trade-off for using public cloud resources is control, and control leads directly to risk. The less control you have over your IT environment, the more risk you must be willing to tolerate. We have seen businesses impacted by outages from nearly every major cloud provider, from Amazon to Google to Microsoft (News - Alert). As with any new product, time and maturity will solve part of this problem.
Fortunately, while these issues are being worked out, you can leverage the advances the public cloud offers within your own data centers. The tools and techniques underlining cloud environments are just advances in new combinations, not completely new models. IT technology has caught up to a past vision, enabling a quick burst of innovation, resulting in these self-service, scalable environments. In fact, many of these tools and techniques are likely already practiced inside your IT department today and are familiar.
For example, virtualization allows us to eke maximum performance from our IT hardware assets, while shrinking the number of physical assets and shifting capital costs to operational costs. A service lifecycle automation tool will make it easier to create stable resources that can quickly be made available for new business needs. Monitoring and management suites provide means to understand the current state of your business services, while providing a window to the future. These are the tools that allow IT department administrators to automate routine and tedious tasks, allowing them to spend more time on high value projects. These tools also create the foundation for scalable, agile, self-service private clouds.
Using available tools will not only improve your local resource usage and deliver real cost savings, but can also lay the groundwork for leveraging off-premise resources later. A properly chosen automation system can help manage local resources as well as resources from a public cloud provider. Choosing technologies with open models and standards will allow you to avoid limiting your options for growth. A stepping stone strategy will help you to make informed decisions about using local resources to mitigate risk, while investing in remote resources where appropriate. "The cloud" could be as transformational an innovation as the buzz proclaims, and the proper approach can make your journey a smooth one.