I found a very interesting article in the November 2011 Harvard Business Review entitled What Every CEO Needs to Know About The Cloud by Andrew McAfee sponsored by Citrix. Admittedly, this White Paper is 10 months old and in our industry that can be a lifetime. However, if you are still considering a move to the Cloud, or if you have come late to the party and need a fast way to catch-up to the rest of the IT community, this article is a must read. The article was sent to me and what caught my eye was the blurb attached to it which simply stated:
“When it comes to cloud computing, today’s IT executives generally ask three important questions:
· Why will the cloud be a big deal beyond the IT department?
· What are the main concerns and areas of skepticism, and how valid are they?
· And, how should we get started?
This timely resource answers these critical questions while explaining the cloud and its benefits. Read now to learn about the cloud’s perceived barriers and other apprehensions that will prevent some companies from taking full advantage of it.”
In the introduction the author describes the current on-premise computing environment and how by its very structure it is an impediment to the inevitable paradigm change that will occur. As the author explains, many large enterprises might not appreciate the benefits of Cloud Computing since they have the resources to do all things promised by the Cloud. But today’s large enterprises spend only a little over 10% of their budgets on development since the bulk of their IT budgets go to maintenance and infrastructure. A case study is presented where a global corporation utilized “Box, a provider of cloud- based content management and file sharing”. The result was that anything stored in the cloud was easily accessible to any employee around the world as long as they had an internet connected device, (i.e. computers, tablets, or smartphones). An additional benefit was that any user could administer their own account thus facilitating collaboration and increasing productivity.
Another feature I found particularly helpful in this White Paper were the use of what the author referred to as “sidebars”. These sidebars were a synopsis of areas or questions of particular concern to the reader. For example the sidebars dealt with the following issues:
1. Overhyped criticisms of cloud computing which only provide “cover” for those not willing to do the due diligence and learn the true benefits of the technology. Questions about cost, security, and reliability of the cloud are the same or comparable issues faced by on-premise data centers.
2. What is the Cloud? This sidebar lays out succinctly the three categories of offerings the cloud can provide:
· IAAS (Infrastructure as a Service): Basically a group of servers providing storage and/or bandwidth for those requiring computing power without the burden of installing and maintaining it.
· PAAS (Platform as a Service): This category comes fully equipped with development tools and allows an enterprise to outsource a part of their infrastructure to develop custom software or to integrate existing applications.
· SAAS (Software as a Service): The largest category is a suite of applications in the cloud as opposed to the user’s laptop or the enterprises data center.
· The benefits for all three categories are: 1) a renting or pay-as-you-go feature thus eliminating the initial capital outlay, 2) the vendors take care of all maintenance and administration, and 3) it is faster and easier to get more out of the cloud for each of the three aforementioned categories than from an on-premise approach.
3. How to Start Moving into the Cloud: This sidebar discusses the following topics:
· Identify restrictions and grey areas
· Start running experiments with SaaS
· Do your next development project in the Cloud
· Talk with your core enterprise software vendors to understand their plans for the Cloud
The White Paper concludes with a very informative interview with Sameer Dholakia, Group Vice President and General Manager, Cloud Platforms Group, Citrix. The questions are pertinent and open-ended which allows for a fuller and more complete explanation. I highly recommend this White Paper for all those still sitting on the fence deciding whether to embark on the future of IT computing.