The Fundamental Power of Cloud Services

We live in a more connected and fast-moving world than ever before. Small business start-ups overtake established incumbents to dominate their markets with increasing speed. Developing countries leapfrog massive landline telecom investments and jump straight to mobile communications.

While our growing interconnectedness brings many benefits, it also sometimes means greater vulnerability and a heightened sensitivity to risk.

Increasingly we look to enabling technology to support both our personal and professional lives. As individuals, we expect instantaneous and ubiquitous access to communications, data, content, and applications.

We increasingly look to social media to inform our personal and business decisions. As business leaders, we expect technology to deliver cost efficiencies, improve customer experience, drive revenue growth, and foster innovation. At the same time, we expect constant availability and end-to-end security.

Evolving Beyond the Legacy IT Models
This combination of rising expectations and a rapid rate of change challenge traditional
approaches for information technology. Business cycles keep shortening, but business system complexity keeps escalating. Traditional information technology solutions are too often described as equal parts business accelerator and business obstructer.

A new approach is needed -- to free individuals and organizations from the constraints of traditional information technology. Many forward-looking executives now believe that Cloud Services are part of the answer and will play a central role in the next era of Business Technology evolution.

Cloud is a new computing paradigm. In Cloud, IT resources and services are abstracted from the underlying infrastructure and provided on-demand and at scale in a multi-tenant environment.

Cloud Services have several fundamental characteristics:
  • Information technology, from infrastructure to applications, is delivered and consumed as a service over the network.
  • Services operate consistently, regardless of the underlying systems.
  • Capacity and performance scale to meet demand and are invoiced by use.
  • Services are shared across multiple organizations, allowing the same underlying systems and applications to meet the demands of a variety of interests, simultaneously and securely.
  • Applications, services, and data can be accessed through a wide range of connected devices (e.g., smart phones, laptops, and other mobile internet devices).
Cloud encompasses several variations of service models (i.e., IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) and deployment models (i.e., private, public, hybrid, and community clouds).

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing some insightful customer use case examples of where and how cloud computing services can be applied to deliver business-oriented benefits.

Cloud Services Embraced by More Progressive Leaders

Once again, we return to the topic of managed cloud services lessons-learned, and the associated best practices that have been gleaned by the early-adopters. The need for agile organizations and adaptive business processes continues to fuel demand for alternatives to the legacy IT status-quo.

According to the latest market assessment by IDC, cloud computing is being adopted more widely for a larger portfolio of business applications, as IT and business leaders discover what works well -- and what doesn't work so well.

The active ingredients for cloud enablement are: just-in-time software stacks that are ready to provision, on-demand deployments, a self-service catalog of cloud services, the scalability to meet growing demand for computing resource and the flexibility to scale down resources -- when they're no longer needed by the user.

Cloud computing uses still focus primarily on public cloud services, with the early adopters leveraging cloud computing for application development, data back-up or archiving, and hosted collaboration solutions. IDC says that Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption has also been responsible for driving usage of cloud computing.

Cost Reduction is Still a Common Goal
No surprise, given the current global economic conditions, reducing IT operational costs has been a common goal of most cloud service adopters.

Moreover, the use of cloud technology is expected to speed time-to-market for new business services, to reduce ongoing operational costs through greater IT efficiency – and to make it inherently easier for users to consume and pay for IT services only when needed.

That said, IDC believes that users will have access to both old and new styles of computing within the enterprise, mapping specific apps to specific deployment models, including non-cloud implementations. Leaders are thereby reserving the right to change the IT service deployment model to fit the evolving business requirements.

A key trend that has surfaced is the selection cloud services from a number of different providers, raising the importance of service federation -- the ability to move from one cloud to another.

Apparently, support for federation is still nascent, with interoperability standards and interfaces that are in the process of being defined. Regardless, interoperability will become a gating-factor for cloud computing to become more widely adopted.

For the less progressive companies, moving their IT applications to the cloud typically requires considerable testing and eventually convincing the reluctant managers to experiment with small projects. Launching apps on private clouds can build confidence in the cloud services model, while minimizing concerns about security and data integrity.

Quest for Better Business and IT Alignment
IDC says that it appears the most critical factors to the success of cloud computing projects can hinge on human factors, not technical. Reason being, cloud computing is about aligning IT technologies to business processes, in a way that reflects the business imperatives and organizational structure.

IT and computing technologies are mere mechanisms, not ends in themselves. Therefore value is best reflected in business impact results, rather than system deployment benchmarks.