Hitching your IT wagon to the cloud carries organization and personnel implications. This means the deployment of a cloud-based environment requires doing new things that are bound to cause initial discomfort.
This is certainly the case if you are one of those organizations with a sprawling IT department operating in separate silos. In such scenarios, different teams own different components of your IT environment, and they don’t necessarily work together to meet common goals.
Teams could be separated by function, so you might have some folks working on security and business continuity, while another group handles network infrastructure, and yet another handles databases and related applications. Even worse, you could have separate teams performing the same functions but in different locations with different equipment and application versions.
Employees organized by function or location don’t necessarily report to the same managers, so you end up with organization issues not only in the IT infrastructure itself but also the people who run it.
Things can get pretty messy in corporate IT. Often poor growth planning and mergers are the principal causes. Systems that should be communicating operate independently while policies and processes vary from one location to another.
You could have separate teams performing the same functions but in different locations with different equipment and application versions.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this kind of hodgepodge setup is an efficiency killer that potentially exposes an organization to security risks and data loss.
But try to fix it, and you may actually hit some roadblocks. Especially if you mention the cloud.
This is where you run into personnel issues, with people trying to protect their jobs. It’s a natural reaction but left unchecked, it is detrimental to day-to-day operations and future strategic planning. A poorly designed IT infrastructure managed through separate IT fiefdoms will surely encumber any organization’s growth.
So any plan to move IT assets to the cloud has to cover the question of how to get IT personnel buy-in. A downsizing in personnel may be in order, but not necessarily so. That of course depends on how much of the technology you keep in house, in a private or hybrid cloud environment, and the level of service you get from your cloud providers.
For some companies, there is an opportunity to shift the focus of the IT staff away from day-to-day functions to strategy. And that, when you think about it, is one of the benefits of the cloud – refining your strategic focus.
As 2011 draws to an end, it’s impossible not to wonder what the New Year has in store. Without getting into the usual prognostications, the question of what’s in store for cloud computing is inevitable.
For two to three years, the IT industry has talked up the cloud, and vendors such as Microsoft and IBM have been touting their cloud-focused technology. Elsewhere, technology that was available over the Internet has become cloud technology. So you see Salesforce.com and Amazon reposition themselves as cloud vendors for services that in some cases already were available before all the talk about the cloud.
In other words, for years you could get services over the Web that now are considered “cloud,” so what exactly, then, is the difference and why all the discussion?
The difference, as I see it, is businesses are coming to a point now where they have to decide whether to replace technology fundamental to their operations with cloud services, as opposed to just using a cloud-based application or two.
The very data you store in the cloud could be the data that saves your business it you ever have to recover it following a catastrophic event.
A lot of companies already have embraced the remote storage and backup services that now are usually referred to as cloud storage. But as fundamental as storage and backup are, I would hazard to guess a lot of businesses still view it as more of a side thing you don’t think about (which is precisely why a remote or cloud approach is ideal).
It’s easier to move something to the cloud that you think about much, anyway. Now comes the trickier question of whether companies are willing to trust the productivity applications they use daily to what, let’s face it, to many people is still an abstraction.
And that, I believe, is the question that more and more decision makers will grapple with in 2012. They’ll be bombarded with marketing from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and companies they haven’t even heard about to make a leap to the cloud. And if you work with an IT services provider, chances are the provider will be pushing cloud services as well.
Of course, you’ll wonder about reliability and security as you weigh the pros and cons of cloud. And those are legitimate worries. But when you think about it, if you already use cloud data backup and trust your data to sit out there, isn’t it time to consider other cloud services as well? Remember, the very data you’ve agreed to store in the cloud could be the data that saves your business it you ever have to recover it following a catastrophic event.
And that’s some food for thought as you enjoy your holidays. Happy New Year!
Technology is supposed to make your life better. It makes you more efficient and productive, and allows you to do things your way.
That’s the theory, anyway. And for a long time, before the advent of cloud computing, IT companies didn’t always deliver on that promise. At times, they didn’t even come close.
Operating systems often were clunky and just short of intuitive, desktops were poorly organized and the technology didn’t always work as promised. While PCs were still the new thing, tech companies could get away with this because, well, users didn’t know any better.
But that’s in the past. With stability achieved for the most part, IT companies have to work a little harder to deliver new improvements.
As such, cloud computing is proving a gift from the heavens for the IT user. Once you’re in the cloud, dropping technology that stinks is as easy as getting it in the first place. You don’t have to be stuck with a faulty piece of equipment or temperamental application because you paid for it upfront.
This forces IT companies to innovate.
Once you’re in the cloud, dropping technology that stinks is as easy as getting it in the first place.
Take, for instance, OS33, a vendor making a name for itself with a fresh approach to desktop computing. OS33 offers a cloud-based customizable IT platform that essentially lets you replace your desktop with a “webtop.”
The platform spares you the intricacies of integrating technology from multiple vendors and the physical infrastructure that has been the bane of many an IT administrator. OS33 takes pretty much everything you use, from servers to operating systems to security and storage, and turns it into a hosted cloud platform.
Assuming you have a stable Internet connection, this is an ideal approach for a user or business that doesn’t want to waste time figuring out which IT piece does what and how, as long as it just works.
From a user standpoint, the most powerful thing OS33 does is to allow you to organize applications, documents, email and Web links however you want. Your webtop becomes a true reflection of how you do your work. You can add tabs and panels at will that take you to the computing resources you use. So instead of cluttering your desktop with a hodgepodge of icons and links, you can set up your webtop neatly.
Beyond that, OS33 is working with its service partners to deliver cloud services that take complexity out of IT administration. Among those services is Cloud Drive, which allows the company’s service partners to unify storage capabilities from Amazon and Microsoft into a single solution.
Along with OS33, a host of cloud service vendors is out there coming up with innovations that will forever change how you use technology. And most importantly, you don’t have to stick with an application or solution if it doesn’t fit your needs because, in the cloud, you have the power.
With the economy stuck in a rut, planning for business growth may feel like wishful thinking. Even the 2.5 percent GDP growth the government reported for the third quarter isn’t good enough to start solving our economy’s persistent unemployment problem.
Still, it makes sense for companies to be thinking about the future and ensure their IT infrastructures can support business growth. You have to believe that at some point the economy will start to improve in a meaningful way – hopefully sooner than later.
And when that happens, from an IT perspective, there is no good reason anymore to allow aging equipment and obsolescent software to hinder growth, as was often the case with legacy environments.
From an IT perspective, there is no good reason anymore to allow aging equipment and obsolescent software to hinder growth.
With cloud computing, you are always ready for growth. Cloud services are elastic, allowing companies to quickly add or reduce capacity as needed. In other words, your organization is not restricted by the size or performance of physical servers, or by the need to add data management systems or new business applications.
For your cloud services provider, adding a virtual server to meet business growth requirements is a simple matter. Depending on the provider and the setup, it could take minutes to hours to, at most, a day or two. Deploying an application, or adding users to an existing cloud service, could be as simple as flipping a light switch.
Whether you are adopting a new cloud service or adding capacity, you don’t have to build or expand your IT infrastructure. It already exists, be it in the Internet-based public cloud or your own private cloud environment. In a private cloud environment, adding capacity could be a simple matter of turning on previously unused nodes.
Rapid deployment and provisioning are among the most attractive benefits of cloud services adoption. Of course pricing also typically is very attractive, but decisions made strictly on price aren’t always the best. That’s a big topic, though, and we will explore it in a future blog.
As any successful business decision maker knows, you always have to keep an eye on current day-to-day operations and the other on the future of the business. And since the future of the business is intricately linked with a company’s IT strategy, it makes infinite sense to make cloud computing an integral plank in that strategy. With the cloud, managing IT to accommodate business expansion has never been easier.
As business decision makers review cloud offerings to determine what fits into their IT environments and strategic plans, they should pay particular attention to what a cloud platform allows them to do.
Some of you may be familiar with Amazon’s cloud-based storage service, Google Apps or Salesforce.com’s web-based CRM application, but what if you wanted to start moving significant portions of your infrastructure, if not all of it, to the cloud? You’ll want to make sure you do it with an eye to anticipating future needs.
Most, if not all, vendors tout scalability as a key feature of their cloud-based offerings, but typically that applies only to a specific product. So if you want to add nodes later on, you’ll be able to do that, which is of course desirable but not necessarily the answer to all your needs.
Some companies offer platforms with plenty of room for expansion but you’ll have to stick with their products as you add resources.
If you are actually looking to deploy a platform on which to build a cloud infrastructure, be mindful of the freedom the platform you choose gives you to add technology as you go along. Some companies offer platforms with plenty of room for expansion but you’ll have to stick with their products as you add resources.
Other companies take a more open approach, giving you the platform and then letting you build on top of it by pulling technology from different vendors. Such vendors include Cloupia, whose Open Automation for Clouds technology allows users to automatically add resources from multiple infrastructure and cloud vendors to satisfy their datacenter needs.
The technology, Cloupia said in a recent statement, allows “users to take control of systems and applications with a minimum of engineering effort and without vendor lock-in.” IT administrators can use the platform to customize and automate tasks, while IT staffs have the ability to “build and execute repeatable physical and virtual infrastructure provisioning workflows without complex custom scripts and expensive system integration engagements.”
Companies looking to build on an open cloud environment might also consider OpenStack. Self-christened as “the open source cloud operating system,” OpenStack is a collaboration of developers who want to create freely available code and establish standards for cloud services consumption. For those of you familiar with Linux, this approach should ring a bell.
OpenStack is getting collaboration from some big names, including NASA, Dell, Citrix and Intel. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this collaboration because, if successful, it could have a significant impact on defining what “cloud” means.
I mention Cloupia and OpenStack not to steer you in the direction of these brands, but rather to alert you to the choices out there. You may find that a vendor with an all-in-one package may be just right for your needs, but before you make that decision, it won’t hurt to explore the possibilities.
Remember, there are plenty of clouds in this expanding sky.
Thinking about the cloud but not quite sure what to do? You are not alone. Thousands of businesses across the land have been bombarded with advertising about the cloud, how it can save you money and how you won’t be able to live without it.
The truth is cloud computing is definitely worthy of consideration by any business with an IT strategy, no matter how big or small the company. It would be negligent, bordering on criminal even, to not at least consider available cloud choices and which legacy computing resources you would be better off replacing with cloud-based applications.
However, before you start ripping out applications and equipment from your office, you should take a few things into consideration regarding cloud offerings. Chief among those considerations are the cloud vendor, its track record and whether the vendor’s offerings are a good fit for your IT needs.
It would be negligent, bordering on criminal even, to not at least consider available cloud choices
You see, everybody is a cloud vendor today. But it wasn’t long ago that some vendors that claim they are cloud leaders thought about clouds only when the sky was grey. So it’s important to do your research.
Read up on the products and consult with your IT provider to learn if the cloud-based applications you are considering have been around a while, whether they are known to cause more problems than they solve, and whether they have a good security track record. Based on the information you gather, think hard about whether the application or solution still looks like the right choice for your specific requirements.
Regarding the latter, you must take into consideration your current infrastructure and whether to invest in upgrades. Do you have enough bandwidth to handle additional Internet-based resources? Is your network architecture set up for cloud-based computing? Should you can a physical server or two and replace them with a virtual server?
What about data backup and recovery? How have you handled that essential piece of your IT environment, and should you move it to the cloud?
And, of course, there are budget considerations. While it may make sense to move most, or all, of your IT to a cloud-based environment, your budget may restrain you from doing so just yet. But you might be able to take a step now, be it deployment of a business application or backup and recovery, to be followed by others later.
The cloud looms ahead, and you’re bound to feel pressure to jump on it. And while your business likely will benefit from the cloud, you ought to make cloud computing decisions methodically and add cloud resources gradually.
In blogs to come, we’ll explore the plethora of cloud choices available out there, how virtualization fits into this whole cloud thing, and what to watch out for in terms of security. It’s going to be a good ride, so climb aboard the Clouds Ahead blog.