You probably hear a lot about the cloud and how much your businesses are benefitting from it. If you believe everything you read, it seems like everything is better in the cloud. So what is the cloud exactly?
The cloud is a network that hosts applications and services either onsite or remotely thanks to the dependable fast Internet services today. Unlike the traditional network located in a typical datacenter, the cloud it not hardware centric and location is irrelevant. It can service users whether it is located on premise or a thousand miles away. The generally accepted definition of cloud computing comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
”Cloud Computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
The cloud has some distinct advantages for business and their enterprises, but it is important to understand what the cloud can do for your organization. According to a recent report, 95 percent of IT professionals reported migrating some part of their infrastructure to the cloud in the past 12 months. However, 35 percent said they had also ultimately moved workloads out of the cloud and back on premise. Undoubtedly, some of the respondents who reversed their cloud migrations may have been overanxious to move to the cloud and neglected to scrutinize if the cloud is indeed a fit for their organization. The truth is, the majority of enterprise applications are not ready or the cloud. There are also many organizations that cannot use the cloud due to compliancy and regulatory reasons such as those who must follow HIPAA or PCI standards. Other organizations may have strict security policies that prohibit the hosting of company data on third party platforms.
Cloud Deployment Models
It is imperative to have an understanding of what the cloud can do and develop a cloud strategy beforehand. The first step is to understand what type of cloud deployment model fits your organization. There are three primary cloud deployment types.
- 1. Private Cloud – A private cloud exclusively serves a single organization and serves its employees and/or clients within that autonomous organization. It can be hosted on premise with some type of virtualization platform or provided by a third party such as a managed services provider.
- 2. Public Cloud – A public cloud is provisioned for use by the general public by a cloud provider such as Azure or Amazon Web Services. These public cloud providers can host resources and provide services for thousands of companies. This type of deployment is attractive to a startup business that does not have an existing network infrastructure.
- 3. Hybrid Cloud – A hybrid cloud is simply a conglomerate of a private cloud and one or more hybrid clouds. Although each cloud is often a unique entity, the network infrastructure is bound together by proprietary or standardized technology. An example could be a company that employs a public cloud to scale peak or unanticipated usage. An organization utilizing Office 365 while retaining an on premise active directory database is a classic example of a hybrid cloud.
Cloud Service Models
The next step is to pick a cloud service model. A service model dictates what elements the cloud service provider and the customer are responsible for managing. This is similar to the demarc of a public telecommunications company that provides phone and Internet services to a company. The demarc is the point of separation between the customer’s equipment and the provider’s.
- 1. Software as a Service (SaaS: Customers use an application provided by the SaaS provider that runs on the provider’s infrastructure. The customer does not have to worry about supporting or maintaining the application in any way. Users can access the application from anywhere in the world using either a web browser or some other type of thin client application. Office 365 and Salesforce.com are classic examples of SaaS applications.
- 2. Platform as a Server (PaaS): This model is especially beneficial for companies who develop their own business applications. In simple terms, the PaaS provider the hardware infrastructure (servers, switches, etc.) as well as the operating system. Customers then simply install their applications for which they are responsible for maintaining. Azure is an example of a PaaS provier.
- 3. Infrastructure as a Service: Customers can create their own datacenter in the cloud. The cloud provider supplies the physical datacenter, the racks of servers, storage and network equipment. The customer then provisions the virtual they need and is in charge of supporting them. A perfect example of IaaS is vCloud Air and Amazon Web Services.
The Need for a Consultant
Cloud providers are constantly changing their service offerings and price structures so it is important to consult with a cloud expert who stays abreast with the latest trends, innovations and alternatives that are available.