I was recently asked the question “Is it still necessary to have a data center considering the cloud possibilities?”. The question probably has a number of answers depending on the viewing angle and a lot has already been written on the subject.
Cloud transforms the way IT is delivered, even if it’s in an own data center (private cloud). To understand what that means to the overall business, the benefits, the responsiveness and the potential risks of migrating to cloud services need to be carefully considered from a business, legal, compliancy and cost perspective.
In pure business terms, cloud is essentially a flexible, scalable, pay-per-use model for the way IT services are delivered and consumed. With its pay-as-you-go model, cloud moves many IT costs from capital expenditure to operating expenditure; its “elastic model” means available IT capability can be flexed to mirror changing business demand; and it enables consumers of IT to have much greater transparency over their costs.
The proportion of business transactions that are either carried out over or touch the internet increases ever year relentlessly. It becomes ever more normal to place a ”hardened” front end for these transactions in the cloud, while providing the back end in a private cloud. This in turn is frequently linked to onpremise systems behind the firewalls.
One noticeable trend is the adoption of several different cloud delivery models even in combination with Traditional IT. This is generally known as a hybrid cloud and this is fast becoming the standard.
To manage all this, companies offer solutions that focus on this cloud integration. These platforms provides the functionality to aggregate, integrate and manage cloud service alongside non-cloud and traditional ICT services in a consistent manner, either managed by the customer or in a managed services / outsourcing.
Considering all of the above how do you ensure that business units have the agility to act and deploy new solutions, increasingly cloud based, yet ensure governance and compliance are not compromised? How do you ensure data availability 24/7, across geographies and across devices and yet be certain that privacy and security will not be compromised? How do you have an IT environment that is robust, secure and flexible and yet have a prudent IT budget?
The answer lies in a cleverly architected and seamlessly integrated Hybrid IT environment with a governance framework that matches the new pace of business, and the flexibility to adapt and evolve with changing business needs. By blending the best of cloud powered and on premise IT, the balance that large organizations seek is the balance that Hybrid delivers.
So, there are many different types of cloud models, and whether you opt to implement the full array from private through to public cloud, or choose to selectively deploy cloud-based infrastructure, applications or business processes, customers are faced with the enigma of where to apply cloud in order to gain the maximum benefit whilst retaining an eye on past investments and overall budgets.
The adoption of cloud is therefore not just an IT issue; it is of concern to and impacts all parts of the business. Take for example email: moving this to the cloud could still be considered an unacceptably high-risk strategy because of the risk of loss or abuse of sensitive information.
Having considered the benefits and risks of adopting cloud for the business, traditionally there are a number of simple rules of thumb governing what can be put in the cloud and when (do note that these tend to change over time)?
- Critical and confidential data or information needs to be processed and held inside secure private systems; this could be held on a private cloud on customer premises (in an own data center) or in a service provider’s data center
- Less critical and confidential data or applications could be held in a shared community cloud where the cloud service is shared with a controlled group of other cloud users
- Public domain, non-critical information that does not place the company at risk can be held outside the organization in the public cloud
It is however important to keep in mind that cloud models and their data protection methods are evolving over time where even public cloud environments state that they can provide highly secured estates.
Although moving to the cloud is not without its difficulties, with careful management these can be mitigated by for example working with an integrator knowledgeable in Hybrid IT. IT departments and organizations can then focus on their primary business objectives while a provider manages the transition to cloud services, integrating and establishing the systems as a seamless part of the IT estate. What’s more, the upsides can often far outweigh the headaches of such a transition.
There is however no one-size-fits-all approach to adopting cloud computing as each case carries specific requirements. Comparing the costs and benefits of a cloud service against a traditional IT in an own data center can be difficult because the two cost models are fundamentally different and depending on the estate even more so when mixed in a Hybrid model. In this context Total Cost of Ownership is not everything with cloud: moving to cloud brings other benefits, such as agility, responsiveness towards the business and scalability, which may compensate any additional migration costs and should be factored into any analysis.
Migrating traditional IT to cloud improves agility, but often requires external expertise to minimize risk, making the isolated IT business case weaker. The overall business case is in the wider organization and change of work processes.