Companies are moving to cloud services. There is no denying the shift. Companies are not moving their entire data center to the cloud, but many are moving at least some applications to the cloud either permanently or temporarily. But what is really moving to the cloud? If you believe the statistics from the cloud providers, one would think that there are massive numbers of companies moving swiftly and rapidly to the public cloud or hybrid cloud. The problem with the cloud statistics is that cloud is overused, over-confused, and over-abused.
While today, everyone seems to be trying to sell something as a service, in reality it seems that SaaS (Software as a Service) is the cloud application of choice by quite a margin! Amazon leads the way, but is followed by IBM, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and others. In all studies available for 2015 and 2016 IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) are still showing some growth. Salesforce is a great example of companies embracing cloud-based software. The ability to provide access anywhere on most devices is a big draw to some businesses. They might only use that one cloud application, but they are using the cloud. According to and IBM blog post titled, “Top 5 Reasons Why Cloud is Essential for Business,” the top five are:
- It offers better insight and visibility
- It makes collaboration easy
- It can support a variety of business needs
- It allows for rapid development of new products and services
- The results are proven
There are certainly other studies with a variety of other reasons and for each positive study; there is a survey that speaks to why people don’t love the cloud. Security is often touted as the top reason. Data sovereignty is a close second in most of these studies. I think we are at the point that data security is proven, at least with the higher end /better established cloud providers. There have been reports of some smaller cloud providers going belly up and having security issues, but the big guys have figured it out. If security is a concern, the right answer is to use a proven company or keep high risk information in the private portion of a hybrid solution or keep it private all together.
But all companies have a variety of data with at least as many risk levels. There is a lot of low hanging fruit so to speak that could be put in the cloud. Backups are one application that has flourished in a cloud environment. In fact, according to the same IBM study, 25% of all companies would choose backups as the first application to move to the cloud. Think about the risk of information in backups. Again, a proven provider will ease those fears. Likewise, simple forms and information that are already public facing are safe moves to the cloud as the information is already public facing and therefore the risk is slight.
So what are the real concerns?
Job security is one. There are those that are concerned that if the applications move to the cloud that they may no longer have a job. The truth is that with few exceptions, no business moves everything to a public cloud. Some applications move to the cloud and some may actually start out in the cloud, but the need for IT does not go away. IT needs to be strategic to the business needs. Today’s BYOD and transient workforce is ideally suited to many cloud applications as access to data is a necessity.
XaaS – Define X
I dont understand the cloud, is another objection. The cloud terms and anything as a service have been beaten to death and have become convoluted. In the end, you are buying confidence as a service for whatever service you really need. You can think of it this way, if you don’t own the equipment and you are using someone else’s, that is a service.
In the public cloud, the real draw is that at the end of use the bill returns to zero. For instance if a fast food restaurant decides to run a campaign where people can download coupons and they chose to put the coupon and download in the public cloud, when the promotion is done their bill returns to zero. If a company borrows bandwidth and compute capacity for some calculations and then they pull their information back out and no longer use the cloud resources, their bill, likewise, would return to zero. Again, they would be using the resources as a service.
Which Cloud Provider is Best?
Lastly, many companies are not sure how to evaluate cloud providers. Critical to any deployment, cloud or otherwise, is to have a clear understanding of business needs. There isn’t much in business that happens the same way as it did 10 years ago. IT needs to grow with and in most cases strategically lead business in order to maintain an upper hand over the competition. The best way to evaluate cloud services is to have the providers respond to your business needs. If you need data sovereignty, then they need to tell you how they will accomplish the location based services. If you need short term burstable compute power, have them answer that need.
The only difference with the cloud providers is that you want to ask a few extra questions.
- Where are your facilities?
- Who controls the equipment?
- What level of redundancy is provided to assure access to my data?
- Are your resources in your own facility or someone else’s, and if the latter, who is the provider?
- What steps do you take to isolate one customer from another?
- What SLAs (service level agreements) do you guaranty?
- What steps do you take to assure security of my data?
Understanding a provider’s structures will help you understand what business needs they will answer and whether or not they are the right fit for your strategic direction. Lastly, make sure you understand the real return on investment. As vendors, we all try to come up with some examples based on the 80/20 rule. But not every point of savings will be realized by every company. Know what will and will not apply to you. Happy cloud computing!