Cloud Computing: Is it right for you?

Cloud Computing: Is it right for you?

Summary: How do you know if cloud computing makes sense for your organization? And if it makes sense for your organization what sort of services should you buy into? Here are the questions to ask.

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TOPICS: Cloud
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How do you know if cloud computing makes sense for your organization? And if it makes sense for your organization what sort of services should you buy into? Even though cloud computing is everywhere, is being offered by all the major technology players, and all agree you need it, definitions vary.

Cloud Computing refers to the delivery of infrastructure components and services. Its name is derived from architecture diagrams where a cloud is used as a metaphor for the Internet. A cloud is used to abstract and represent the complex infrastructure environment.

The components that are housed in the cloud on the diagram are client devices, servers and data centers. Client devices include mobile devices, think and thick computers. While the data center in the cloud are defined as servers or collections of servers, for small organizations the cloud may represent a portion of a server. Being able to provide a portion of a server, or storage space, called ‘capacity on demand’ is one of the hallmarks of cloud computing.

The ‘as a service paradigm’ in cloud computing has vendors offering Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Database as a Service (DaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and more. In addition to getting the right balance of cost to benefit, availability, scalability, capacity, and regulatory concerns will drive the decision process.

Additionally, determining your organization’s risk profile will be key to understanding if cloud computing and associated service is right for you. So what service makes sense for your organization? Here are the questions to ask.

1. Does the cost benefit justify the disruption?

Data center migrations are disruptive, costly, and complicated. Tightly coupled mission critical systems that make up the minority of the data center take the most time and expense to migrate. Though savings range from project to project and will vary by organization, the greatest savings will be found with labor, hardware, and software. The key is that the cost benefit outweighs the disruption the migration will cause.

2. Do your applications require specific hardware components or speed of delivery?

Some applications cannot be virtualized as they require specific underlying hardware components. While tempting, it is best to not migrate these to the cloud. Additionally, some applications require minimal delivery speeds. If latency is an issue, it is best to keep the entire system (i.e., all the system components - web, application, database, middleware servers, etc.) local. Simply look for other cloud opportunities within your environment (e.g., end of life servers hosting non-critical applications).

3. How much capacity will you use?

While you own or lease your servers the capital outlay is quite consistent from month to month. Typically, if more capacity is required, someone creates a purchase order and a while later new assets are available. Because cloud computing is an ‘on demand’ service, scalability is provided as needed. Which is a good thing, right? Maybe.

Some IT shops may find their costs spiking as utilization increases; if this was planned, it is not an issue, but best to do the math before signing up.

4. Are data regulation and security hurdles too high to overcome?

Not all data can or should reside online. Your IT security group or governing body may mandate that sensitive data remain local. Regulatory constraints aside, from a security perspective the organization has to be willing to risk placing their and their customer’s data in the hands of a third party vendor.

The organization has to be willing to give up some level of control because the cloud is like a black box. Banks and health care organizations may find this an unacceptable risk, regardless of the controls that a vendor may employ.

5. When shouldn’t I use cloud computing?

  • If you have Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) data, you should not. The last thing you want is your data to co-mingle with someone else’s. Better not to take a chance.
  • Sensitive data is best kept local. Sure you can use encryption, but with any good security paradigm you make it more difficult for hackers, bots and yourself.
  • If your applications require specific hardware components, or your application requires complete access to the server, cloud computing may not be a good fit.
  • Since data and applications may be in disparate locations, if latency is an issue, then the cloud is not a good fit.
  • Tightly coupled, mission critical applications are not good candidates for cloud computing.

See also:

Topic: Cloud

Gery Menegaz

About Gery Menegaz

Gery Menegaz is a Chief Architect for IBM with more than 20 years supporting technologies in the financial, medical, pharmaceutical, insurance, legal and education sectors. My Full-Time Employer is IBM. I write as a freelancer for ZDNet.

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4 comments
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  • Cloud Computing Was A Great Investment For My Company

    My company just moved to the cloud and it has drastically help allow my IT department to focus more on innovation for our clients instead of having to worry about our backup and storage. We used a company by the name of Champion Mastermind. Their website is http://www.masterminditservices.com.
    bigcouchmedia
  • Sometimes you have to ask yourself some questions

    A problem I see is that some businesses want to own their servers because they see it as an asset. Sometimes this is a valid concern too, since reliable servers can last well beyond a lease term. However, in looking at your previous purchase history, you have to ask yourself "Am I actually going to save any money by moving to the cloud?". You'd be surprised how many companies either can't get a straight answer on this, or else the answer is a definitive "no". In those cases, there is no cost benefit.
    Joe_Raby
  • Unwarranted Fear Factor

    For some organizations, the thought of cloud computing essentially means "lose of control." The cloud may be tailored exactly for a specific application deployment, yet the dreaded "control" word creeps into every planning meeting with SA's, BA's and infrastructure teams. Control, for some, means being able to reach out to someone who sleeps with a Blackberry by their bedside. A quadruple-nine SLA doesn't afford the same kind of, feel good, direct accountability quotient. Besides, you can't finger point an SLA (especially if you voted for the cloud) for CYA purposes.

    Providers of cloud services need to do a better job of explaining the benefits and allay the unwarranted fears of IT managers. Your article touches on some of these advantages, yet service providers need to do better. White papers are fine for the technocrat crowd. This is required for case use and implementation strategy, yet you can't rewrite one of these to present to the business side (ie. the folks who hold the purse strings). What's needed is more "competitor ABC pushed their XYZ application to the cloud and this is how they" saved, secured, scaled and/or added value to their customers.

    Infrastructure fails on a regular basis at all IT shops. Some are mitigated before the business side is impacted. Other times, the IT department becomes front page news with Corporate Risk not just Risk on the IT side. My point being, does risk really change all that much by moving to the cloud? I would sleep better at night putting "best fit" applications on the cloud.
    Tired Tech
  • Network dependancy

    Once you go to the cloud, you are totally dependent on connections from your company to the outside world. Fiber-seeking backhoes can wreak havoc on connectivity and you are at the mercy of the repair crew. You'd better have at least two connections with as diverse physical routing as you can get.
    PanamaBill