For the last 5 years, the term “cloud computing” has been used to describe a large and ever-expanding list of outsourced information technology (IT) products and services, which can lead to much confusion. So, what exactly is “cloud computing” in today’s world?
At its core, cloud computing in the context of corporate IT, is simply a way to deliver services over the Internet faster and cheaper than using in-house IT resources which typically include servers, power, switches, apps and labor to manage it all.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are five essential characteristics of cloud computing: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity or expansion, and measured service. It also lists three “service models” (software, platform and infrastructure), and four “deployment models” (private, community, public and hybrid) that together categorize ways to deliver cloud services. The definition is intended to serve as a means for broad comparisons of cloud services and deployment strategies, and to provide a baseline for discussion from what is cloud computing to how to best use cloud computing.
What isn’t mentioned in the NIST definition is computer virtualization. Virtualization provides the foundation for cloud computing by allowing multiple virtual computers to share the resources of a single computer or storage device. Virtualization enables us to dynamically size our virtual computers according to the service delivery requirements, instead of trying to match physical hardware to service or application. In addition, the process of virtualization provides independence from the underlying hardware, so that hardware drivers (e.g. disk and network adaptors) are standardized. The result is much more efficient use of physical resources and portability of virtual servers between hardware platforms.
What are the Four Ways Corporate IT Can Benefit from the Cloud?
- Flexibility: Having access to scalable compute and storage means you can expand capacity as needed and that network can be automatically updated and adapted to the changing needs of your user base.
- Speedy Deployment: Experienced Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers that use advanced virtualization products can make resources available in a very short period of time.
- Security: With its constantly evolving data protection landscape and system reliability, the cloud makes for a powerful 1-2 punch particularly for IT with EOL infrastructure or data stored on drives that are not always backed up.
- Cost savings: Cloud computing can lower your entire operations and maintenance costs because you only pay for what you use and can later buy additional capacity on demand without making a large outlay of capital expenses (CAPEX). Furthermore, according to estimates from IBM, cloud services utilization “reduces IT labor costs by up to 50%, improves capital utilization by 75% and reduces provisioning from weeks to minutes.” Source: Forbes 6/2/10
From Clouds Come Smoother Sailing…
The bottom line for considering cloud services has everything to do with the bottom line, because ultimately cloud computing is about enhancing and enabling a company’s business focus. By making your IT “leaner and meaner” you save both time and money. And by doing so, your business can focus its efforts on improving the customer experience by delivering better products and services – core competencies that can propel a company forward no matter how choppy the economic waters may be.