Before You Join the Cloud, Ask Yourself 'Why?'

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Private Versus Public Cloud Computing

A plethora of applications are being considered for the cloud, but it may take at least another year before cloud computing goes mainstream in the enterprise.

If the choice had to be made today, would you go with a public, private or hybrid cloud?

That's a tough one to field at this point considering the technology is still evolving and the use cases for each approach are still open to debate. However, with demand for scale-out and on-demand services on the rise, enterprises will be under the gun to provide them regardless of the unknowns.

Already, cloud platforms are evolving past their initial generic forms to target specific requirements. HP and Microsoft made a big splash this week with their plan to create an integrated hybrid environment for organizations that face high degrees of compliance and regulation. The package combines the Microsoft Office 365 service, as well as Exchange, SharePoint and Lync, with HP's Enterprise Cloud platform. The idea is to provide access to a global resource pool but still allow for various security, data residency and other national or regional legal and regulatory requirements.

Cisco, meanwhile, says it has overcome what it calls the silo approach to various cloud platforms by devising a unified framework for public, private and hybrid services. The CloudVerse platform builds on the company's unified data center portfolio, as well as intelligent networking and various applications and service offerings to provide tighter integration among cloud architectures, thus avoiding much of the systems and service redundancy that would undoubtedly arise from a piecemeal approach.

Of course, before you decide on what type or types of cloud you want to build, you should figure out what you want to do with them. But as tech consultant Joe Onisick points out, don't be afraid to jettison the cloud entirely if it won't suit your needs. A prime example is "cloud bursting," the notion that cloud resources can be held in reserve for unusually high traffic spikes. Aside from the technical challenges involved, is it really practical to expect CEOs and CFOs to sign off on a plan that will still incur monthly fees but may or may not be needed to handle data loads of still undetermined scale?

Indeed, echoes Bloor Research analyst Martin Banks. If you turn the equation around and approach it from a business-needs perspective, you'll find that the public-private-hybrid debate is largely irrelevant. The goal of IT should be to support the organization's data requirements so that clear-cut objectives can be obtained. By focusing on technology first, enterprises run the risk of locking themselves into a given platform that might be an inhibitor to growth rather than a facilitator.

That's a message I've tried to drum home on numerous occasions over the years. Technology, whether it's servers, storage, virtualization or the cloud, is only a means to an end. The vast majority of enterprises will no doubt expand their cloud footprints over the next few years. But exactly how that will be done and what underlying platforms will be deployed are still very much up in the air.

Before you get too far down this road, it would be wise to sit down with other business units in your organization to figure out what their requirements are.

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