In the first part of our Data Center series, we covered Big Data and the overwhelming challenge of not only storing ever-increasing amounts of data, but also leveraging it to extract business value. Finding a workable solution to this challenge will undoubtedly steer IT leaders to “The Cloud.” But what exactly is the Cloud, and how does it drive stronger partnerships between IT and businesses?
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing operates via a pool of resources—servers, storage, networking gear and such—that processes, stores, and analyzes data. These resources typically reside in a remote location called a data center, which is more commonly abstracted as “the Cloud.” Rather than relying on the finite resources of a single local computer or hand-held device, users can access the Cloud from anywhere in the world via the Internet or some form of high-speed network connectivity.
Rationalizing Your Cloud Strategy
Most companies already use the Cloud in one format or another, typically driven by shifting business requirements and new applications. However, as computing resources grow increasingly complex, enterprises are discovering that they need to take a business-driven approach to developing a cloud strategy. This begins with asking the right questions:
What are your business goals? Cloud computing is spreading fast, but it’s important to recognize and define why your business should leverage the Cloud. Depending on whether your objective is to save money, add new services, or free up internal IT, your cloud strategy should be aligned with your business goals.
What applications does your business rely on? Chances are that your enterprise uses hundreds, if not thousands, of applications: financial databases, office productivity software, and human resources management, just to name a few. Before moving forward, it is useful to perform a complete assessment of the services and applications that your users rely on, evaluating everything from functionality and performance to cost and sustainability. If an application is outdated or available more conveniently as a service, it may no longer be an essential part of your portfolio.
How would migrating affect your business? Once you have studied your IT infrastructure, you can then evaluate the merits of migrating certain target applications from a local server(s) to the Cloud. For example, an application that depends on a very low latency connection may not be feasible for migration. Or perhaps your business is subject to strict compliance regulations, and certain applications may be better suited to continue to host on local servers. But an application that requires minimal management or needs to scale easily due to fluctuating demands might be ideal for cloud computing.
As you rationalize your cloud strategy, there are different types of cloud computing models that warrant even further consideration:
|What||Public Cloud is a large pool of computing resources that is shared among multiple users. A service provider such as Amazon, Google, or Microsoft, makes resources available to the general public via the Internet.|
|How||Storage and computing power in the public Cloud is generally sold on-demand, meaning that consumers only pay for the resources that they use – essentially a “pay-by-the-slice” approach. In terms of security, service providers provide strict access control measures to ensure that sensitive data is only seen by those who are meant to see it.|
|Whom||Web servers or development systems where services need to be delivered to a large audience and over the Internet are well suited for the public Cloud. Users that need to scale their resources up or down regularly or frequently in response to high traffic are also ideal for a public cloud approach.|
|What||A Private Cloud is essentially a set of cloud computing resources that reside in a specific, dedicated location—either a stand-alone data center or a physically secure section of a shared data center. Regardless, the compute resources are exclusive to a single organization.|
|How||Private cloud models include two basic variants. One approach is to leverage a physically isolated infrastructure. Think of this as a safe. The safe is your personal and protected property. You own it completely. Alternatively, a “Hosted Private Cloud” allows users to rent server space, granting them complete control over a designated IP address range and configured network gateways. In this case, the private Cloud is more like a safety deposit box. You don’t own it, but you can set your own combination to ensure that no one else accesses it. In both cases, your data is private.|
|Whom||Private Cloud models might appeal to businesses that want more control over their infrastructure and want to drive tight integration between purpose-built hardware and applications that run on it. Private Cloud might also provide cost advantages to businesses that can accurately predict workloads and have existing in-house experts to support the infrastructure.|
|What||The hybrid cloud model is any method of cloud computing that utilizes both private and public Clouds. This has become the default model for many enterprises, with some groups using the public cloud for one particular use case and others leveraging existing assets in a private cloud.|
|How||The goal of hybrid cloud computing is to create a unified and scalable environment that ensures efficiency and security where and when they are needed. Thus, the level of security is up to the user. Some enterprises choose to leverage private Cloud for sensitive and critical information, while less essential data with a tendency to scale frequently is migrated to the public Cloud. Another common case of hybrid Cloud is using the public Cloud as a catalyst to reduce and migrate legacy applications and systems. Thus, hybrid Cloud also functions as the liaison between old and new systems and offers an affordable option for closing enterprise-wide gaps.|
|Whom||Companies with many legacy applications and use cases involving variables like peak demand periods, unique compliance requirements, and budget and talent constraints, are all suited for the hybrid cloud model.|
The public Cloud is a shared infrastructure, with data and compute resources made available to users through the Internet. The private Cloud is also a pool of compute resources – but those resources are unique to a single party and are both physically and logically independent and secure. The hybrid Cloud is simply some combination of private and public Cloud resources, offering integration, efficiency, and scalability.
With the increasing value of data and mobility to the enterprise, cloud computing is a major consideration in today’s business landscape. The convenience of cloud computing has catalyzed 95% of enterprises in 2016 to use some form of the Cloud, 71% of which are using a hybrid model. Read more on why businesses are migrating to the Cloud in our next Data Series post.