Technological advances continue to occur at a breakneck pace allowing for faster processing and vast amounts of data storage, but it is the introduction of the Cloud computing model that has had the most impact on the design and delivery of IT in the last two decades. In simplest terms, Cloud is the delivery of on-demand applications and computing resources. Cloud solutions are typically delivered over the Internet by a third-party, but it is also common to see the model applied within an organization as a private Cloud. The Cloud model differs from other more dedicated technology designs, since the model provides a pool of resources that can be consumed by users as services. In the case of public Cloud, these services take the shape of end-user applications, back-office platforms, or virtual servers – all hosted over the Internet with simple billing models that charge the user for just what they use.
As we move throughout our day we take for granted our personal interactions with the Cloud. The majority of the applications running on our mobile devices leverage the Cloud, and there is a general expectation that these services are always available 24 hours a day. The combination of “always-on” expectations, the ease of scalability, and the change in cost model that the Cloud provides has had a direct effect on the design and delivery of IT in today’s organizations. Companies can convert capital expenses into operational expenses, and can begin to shift to more of a self-service model for their end-users which helps defray IT costs.
Organizations look across their traditional IT landscape and see high cost and loss of efficiency with their multiple Data Centers, multiple storage solutions, and large deployment of servers and applications. As a result, CIOs are increasingly leveraging public Cloud as a part of their IT delivery strategy in order to augment traditional IT and take advantage of these benefits. When Cloud was first introduced, many CIOs took a “wait and see” approach as the model matured, but now Cloud adoption has drastically increased with Gartner estimating that 40% of IT budgets are being allocated to Cloud and Cloud-related services. In recent years, we have seen a commitment to “Cloud-first” policies across many organizations including our own Federal government and large Enterprises like General Electric (GE) who announced at Amazon’s AWS re:Invent user conference that the company will move 60% of its IT workloads to the public Cloud.
Industry research clearly indicates a movement to Cloud, but what are some examples of how organizations are leveraging Cloud alongside traditional IT today? What drives an organization to choose Cloud over traditional IT service delivery? CIOs should first understand what applications are a good fit for the Cloud and what applications are not. Applications that are a good fit for the Cloud typically have flexibility built into the application such that there are no custom hard-coding of systems or security features. The application and the data can run in separate workspaces so that the application can take advantage of dynamic resource utilization. Spinning up additional resources, like the addition of web servers for a web app, should be part of a modular design. It is also important to recognize that reliance on the Internet goes up when moving an application to the public Cloud; so if the Internet goes down for your end-users then productivity stops.
Whether it is delivering applications to end-users or deploying a dynamic web application, the Cloud provides IT organizations with the scalability, ease of management, and the operational cost model to deliver quality services to customers – even alongside a traditional hosted model. Cloud has reached such a level of maturity that all IT organizations, from large Enterprises to small businesses, can find value in incorporating Cloud in their IT design. CIOs are encouraged to stop thinking about the Cloud as an “or” strategy but rather an “and” strategy when comparing to traditional hosted IT.
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