Cloud. In my line of business, we hear this word almost on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the definition of cloud is about as solid as the word would suggest. Cloud means a lot of different things to different people. In this first blog post in a series about cloud, I’ll attempt to level set the definition overall as well as talk about the benefits and qualities of a cloud service model as they pertain to businesses.
‘There Is No Cloud’ by Chris Watterston (http://www.chriswatterson.com) – Used with permission.
Cloud is just a consumption model but the characteristics of that model benefit organizations differently. NIST defines cloud as:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
NIST succinctly defines cloud computing and it makes perfect sense, right? Blog post finished. Well not really. The definition overall makes sense but when I consult with different companies about cloud, this is not what they are trying to accomplish but it is the end-state through which they are targeting based on the perceived value the market is parroting. I think it would be helpful to explore the NIST article in even more detail to look at some of the qualities of cloud and discuss what they are really driving in the business.
- Resource Pooling: What NIST is characterizing here is a multi-tenant environment through which compute, storage and network resources are provisioned based on point-in-time demand. The efficient use of resources here is a primary business driver. These resources are abstracted from the physical, pooled, sliced and presented to the requestor. Another theme here is that you may not know where these resources are coming from or where they live. It doesn’t matter; you are requesting resources and provided an SLA for those resources.
- On-Demand Self-Service: Less human interaction and immediate access to fully orchestrated services ready for use. The business drivers here are to enable businesses with simplicity and agility. More agile businesses are able to respond quickly to market changes and drive differentiation from companies who might be slower to respond. Additionally, when you simplify and automate, there is a higher chance that the system will function without error or mistakes.
- Broad Network Access: NIST is defining mobility here. The ability to access your services across any network on any device. The value to organizations here is increased productivity and ease of use. If your users and clients can access and leverage this service wherever and whenever, they are more likely to use it. Increased use drives more revenue assumptively.
- Rapid Elasticity: The ability for a system to scale quickly and easily is a huge driver for businesses overall. The last thing an organization wants to do is launch a new application or service, have great success in the market with it, but is unable to scale it quickly enough to meet demand.
- Measured Service: The overall value here is that there is a potential cost reduction. You only pay for what you use. Reducing costs is the primary driver I hear from clients looking at cloud. They normally see cloud as a way to decrease their overall IT spend and they are right to a certain extent. If your services are turned on and turned off based on demand, you can see real value with cloud computing. The reality is that many applications are always on applications such as Exchange, SQL, CRM, etc. and while their usage may be inconsistent, their power state and median use is not.
These qualities and how they relate to business drivers are what organizations are looking at the cloud to achieve: agility, mobility, efficiency, scalability and cost reduction. Cloud is not a place, thing, or specific service but a model through which businesses can consume IT and drive these qualities throughout the organization enabling it at a new a competitive level. This model is driving rapid changes throughout IT and these qualities are the cornerstone of many new technologies and platforms which enter the market today.
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