In order to understand the dynamics of how Cloud offerings impact Business (versus consumer offerings which are very different), it is important to understand the types of offerings and the basics of how they interact. As with many IT trends and fads, terms have a way of being overused to the point of being almost meaningless - remember "user-friendly"? Cloud is no different, so let’s break it down a little for some clarity. Future postings will speak to the opportunities and challenges of the various alternatives.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service: Technology resources are owned by a provider and these resources are then rented back to you. This provides a hardware utility model in which you rent the processing capability that currently occupies a server or rack of servers in your environment. As you require additional capacity, the provider increases the resources required within minutes/hours and you pay only for the additional resources. Theses resource pools typically consist of Processing units (CPU units), Memory (RAM), Storage (GB) and communications (MBs).
Software-as-a-Service: Either a service provider or in many cases the software author will provide a hosted version of their software in which to operate your organization. This model is the most mature of the Cloud offerings; examples include: SalesForce.com, Hotmail, Gmail among hundreds of other industry specific software products.
Hosted Infrastructure: In many cases, organizations have outgrown their location's capacity in which to house their IT infrastructure while meeting the demands of communications, business continuity and overall support. By physically locating their IT infrastructure assets in a provider's datacentre, the investments required to fulfill the demands can be mitigated while providing a superior environment for the assets.
Private Cloud: Unlike the previous options above, which use public or shared infrastructure, private cloud delivers on the attributes of Infrastructure as a Service and incorporates them within your facilities. Technologies including virtualization have substantially changed the way in which data processing resources are provisioned. Hardware, Operating Systems, User Platforms (desktops) and Software components now all have virtual offerings, which allow them to be migrated, sized, implemented and upgraded with dramatically improved efficiencies from our past.
Managed Services: As many solutions that would traditionally require the purchase of a hardware appliance and/or local installation and management move to the Software as Service model and as Managed Service providers have more capable and intricate tools in which to monitor, manage and support your organization, it will be critical for support organizations to bring all of these functions into a cohesive management model. While cloud offerings bring many exciting promise, the key success of delivery of these solutions depends on bringing together the management and support.
Having directly served the small business IT market space for over 30 years, one significant and pervasive observation I have made is that few, if any, small businesses are alike. While many business functions can be distilled down to similar or identical attributes, the way in which two businesses approach an identical industry and marketplace is frequently incomparable. This issue is one of the single most important factors with respect to the Small Business approaching the cloud - no two businesses will gain the same results by deploying various Cloud solutions for their business.
Written by Mark Scott, CEO, The Utility Company (TUC)
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