CIO Cloud Computing 101 – Why Use the Cloud?

Does anyone else remember the great Furby craze that swept the US in the early ’90s? People were crazy about these little plush dolls and they started collecting them hoping that one day they would be valuable. Well, that never happened and a lot of people were stuck with expensive toys they couldn’t get rid of. Is it possible that the current cloud computing craze in IT could be another Furby fad that will die down?

What kind of services come in a cloud?

If a CIO can beat the hype, they’ll need to spend some time doing their homework to figure out what kind of services a cloud might offer that their business could use. Neal Leavitt has spent some time studying cloud computing and breaking down cloud services into four types of services:

  • Basic Services: This is not glamorous, but it is possibly the most popular type of service that a cloud environment can offer your business. Basically, simple internet-based services such as database functionality and capacity, middleware and additional storage are used to complement what your business already has.
  • IaaS: Buzzword Alert – “Infrastructure as a Service”. You rent a complete computer (CPU, memory, bandwidth, etc.) that you access via the Internet. You would use this infrastructure to run your company’s applications seamlessly.
  • PaaS: Platform-as-a-Service – provides your business with a development environment that your IT staff can use to build new applications for the rest of the business (and your customers). This is computer plus development tools.
  • SaaS: Software-as-a-Service – Here you don’t care what the software runs on, you just want to purchase access to the application. The best-known example of this is Salesforce.com’s CRM application.
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Why bother with a cloud?

Research firm Forrester has done some research and now claims that most companies’ data centers are using less than 50% of their total capacity. Despite the current hype surrounding cloud computing, Leavitt found three very good reasons to consider cloud computing for your business:

  1. Availability: Interestingly, despite many companies’ concerns about losing control of their IT equipment, there is a strong case for having a professional company that has the deep pockets for redundant systems and verified disaster recovery plans that your IT needs – Operate infrastructure. If you work in a small or even medium-sized business, this can be especially valuable to you.
  2. Application integration: Sorry, we can’t do anything about those old apps you’re running. However, the new ones designed to run in the cloud are easy to integrate almost automatically, as they use the suite of web interface languages/tools (SOAP, XML, etc.) that make this easy.
  3. Flexibility: Unlike most cell phone providers in the US, most cloud computing service providers currently do not require users to sign long-term contracts that lock them in. This makes it easy to quickly get more cloud resources when your business needs them.

Final Thoughts

It’s all too easy for CIOs reluctant to change to look at the current excitement about cloud computing and decide that it’s just another fad that will fade with time. The reality is that cloud computing provides different types of services that are useful for every IT department. This cannot be ignored.

Additionally, successfully adding cloud computing resources to the organization’s existing IT infrastructure means a CIO has found a way to apply IT so the rest of the organization can grow faster, move faster, and do more.

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