Friday, July 3, 2009

The Evolution of the Cloud

Beyond the Cloud Hype
The "cloud" may be new to some but for many of us that have been in the systems management space - today's cloud is just an evolution of innovative distribution approaches that have been around for nearly a decade - companies like Electronic Arts, Music Match, and Intuit for example all have delivered some form of service and/or content over the interent leveraging a scalable backend infrastructure.

What's Different?
Technology has evolved to help shift the focus to more of a user driven paradigm. Key usability capabilities that exist in virtualization (application independance), dynamic provisioning (reduces latency), enhanced capacity (for servers, networks, and clients alike), regulations (HIPAA, PCI, SOX) and more sophisticated users are driving a change in the paradigm from IT to User Focused. While the devil may be in the details the fact is companies are forced to learn balance and how to cut costs in this new era.

Why Now?
Forester recently bucked traditional thinking with their statement that contrary to general belief many large enterprises are looking to deploy in the cloud. This comes as no surprise for those of us that have been in this space for quite awhile. Server consolidation was fueled by many CIOs realizing that rising power and space was quickly becoming a significant concern for the datacenter. Server virtualization made complete sense given that many reported having 10% utilization or less. The costs to maintain, power, and cool the datacenter were more than the actual loss of the servers and costs of deploying server virtualization technology.

Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS- such as Amazon EC2) and Platforms as a Service make more sense now then ever before for 2 reasons:

1) Hard to justify buying more hardware for growth in a down economy - a perfect example of this - a large MSP opted to leverage an IAAS solution in lieu of purchasing, building, and maintaining a new data center to support their growing customer base. By combining newer technologies such as virtualization with IAAS provider they significantly cut their costs and increased their overall margins.

2) Companies are becoming more dependant on technology. Enterprises know that they will need to think about how they scale and/or contract in these turbulent times where companies are either merging, acquiring or laying off to weather the storm. It is too hard to plan and justify when one could select a solution that is fairly low costs to provide the same service.

External and Hybrid clouds are panning out to be more than just technology looking for a solution but as a cost effective way for the Enterprise to shrink and grow their costs with tide of demand for additional applications and resources.