Cloud computing is a hot topic at the moment, and for good reason. With it, companies have the potential to gain competitive advantages that could make a real difference to business performance. Yet despite its continued evolution, concerns remain. Is cloud computing secure? Will it provide reliable availability? Can I maintain control over business-critical systems and data that exist in the cloud? Is it an enterprise-ready solution that can deliver on all the hype?
Building an enterprise infrastructure is challenging and costly. Yet many businesses today are actually intentionally overbuilding -- and therefore overspending -- as this has historically been the only proven means of ensuring that business-critical operations will remain in service, no matter what. Ironically, one of the biggest threats to infrastructure stability can, for many organisations, be their own success.
Companies depend on being able to provide consistent, reliable access to business-critical applications --particularly external Web sites or customer portals, which represent their brand, and their business. Yet too many organisations today have suffered from crashed Web sites or unavailable applications resulting from usage spikes. This is why overbuilding has become the norm -- it ensures that the network will withstand the unexpected -- and day-to-day activity can continue uninterrupted. Organisations therefore feel almost obliged to build and maintain redundant systems, which are expensive and difficult to manage.
Not surprisingly, therefore, that cloud computing is of such interest to organisations all around the world. In the cloud computing environment, functionality is transferred out of the network, and made available to enterprises on demand. Gartner defines cloud computing as “a style of computing in which massively scalable IT-enabled capabilities are delivered ‘as a service’ to multiple customers using Internet technologies.”[See "Gartner: Data In the Cloud: The Changing Nature of Managing Data Accessibility", 27 February 2009, ID:G00165291 by Eric Thoo]
In essence, service providers can leverage economies of scale to provide a highly reliable platform with greater cost and management efficiency. Companies gain flexible access to large amounts of scalable computing power, giving them the freedom to adjust capacity to support the natural cycles of their business. Resources can be added, turned off, or reassigned whenever necessary. Cloud computing is therefore a business enabler rather than a technical construct -- a function that IT leaders are finding increasingly necessary as the IT role evolves.
The Advantages of Cloud Computing
The advantages of cloud computing are especially clear when looked at from the perspective of business solutions. For example, by reducing the time and effort required to launch new applications, cloud computing helps IT become more responsive to the pace and dynamic nature of business. Applications supported by the cloud don’t need large infrastructure to be deployed at the customer’s location, which dramatically reduces the upfront commitment of resources. New applications can be approved and deployed quicker, making it easier to satisfy the needs of all departments. And the financial case is radically altered -- there’s no need for large capital outlays to launch new applications, moving the decision out of the investment realm and into the operational.
Transitioning from a capital expense model to an operational expense model reduces financial risk to monthly increments and provides a higher degree of flexibility to manage expenses over time. If the market slows, organisations aren’t locked into expenses their budgets can no longer support. If applications produce disappointing results, an enterprise can pursue a different direction without having to abandon expensive on-premises infrastructure.
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