6 Steps towards embracing Cloud

"Cloud computing" has been in vogue for quite sometime now. However for many, it's still a buzzword, including IT managers who might not have got a chance to work on Cloud yet. In a recent Google Hangout by +Digital CRM , we discussed briefly about Cloud computing - the what, why, how part of it. This blog summarizes the discussion. You can watch the full video here.

1) What is Cloud?
If you search for the definition of "Cloud computing" in Google, it throws back this long sentence: "the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.To decipher this simple statement, let us point out the basics of Cloud computing.
  • It's about On-demand IT Infrastructure. The stress is on the word - on-demand. It's like a tap. You are charged for the time the tap is open. Well, almost like that.
  • It's delivered over Internet. 
  • The payment model is based on Opex, instead of Capex. Thus you pay as you consume the services instead of paying upfront for a large data centre.
  • And last but not the least - this whole cloud computing concept rides on the economy of scale. The cloud vendors have setup huge infrastructure of data centres all over the world, and they have put that on rent. The cost benefit comes from utilization of this economy of scale.

2) Are you using Cloud?
While all of us talk about Cloud as a tech thing, knowingly and unknowingly it has already seeped into our daily life. If you are using Dropbox, you are consuming the services of one of the biggest Cloud Infrastructure vendor. If you are using Apple Playstore, you are using the other big guy's services. Similarly utilities like Netflix, Google Drive and games like Real Racing 3 rides on Cloud. So as an end user, in all probability, you are already on cloud, even if you are not aware of it.

3) Is Cloud Mainstream yet?
Cloud is in the tech press for a while now and there it's no more a buzzword, but slowly getting into the mainstream flow. To check that, we looked at the famous Hype cycle of Gartner, which they publish every year to show the current technology landscape. Interestingly, Cloud computing was judged as part of "Point of Inflated Expectations" in 2009. And in 2014, it has crossed that stage and has reached "Trough of disillusionment". While we don't agree to this observation from industry, even if we go by Gartner's admission, Cloud computing is now standing close to the stage of "Slope of Enlightment". And I guess this should happen by 2015 itself. That's quite a change. Over a time period of 6-7 years, Cloud has come from another hype to becoming mainstream.

4) Cloud and the Service Models
While any Cloud computing discussion invariably talks about the technology part of it, it has aso delivered an altogether new business model to the industry - the service model. Cloud has given birth to majorly three areas - a) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), b) Platform as a Service (PaaS) and c) Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • IaaS - this is the most common one and is considered almost synonymously with Cloud in general. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine are the Leaders in this segment. If you are only looking for a server quickly, then IaaS is the go-to method.
  • PaaS - This may not be the most popular one amongst the three. However this has the potential of becoming the game changer. Vendors like Oracle might like to provide their Database license on the cloud, instead of renting only the server or renting a full-fledged ERP system. Similarly Google has a proposition here as an App Engine and Microsoft also has some offering in this space.
  • SaaS - This is the solution for many startups or MSMEs in non-tech sector. If you are looking for a quick and dirty software but don't want to invest time and money into building a huge solution, you might like to go for Software as a service. Salesforce.com has used this model extensively to sell their offering. Similarly Google Apps is challenging Microsoft Office business by offering the entire Office suite on Cloud as a service.

5) Why should you move to Cloud?
This is possibly the most relevant question once you understand what cloud is all about. The most important revert to this question is - Cloud computing increases the speed of execution of the business. The server provisioning time comes down from months to hours. The long wait time goes out of the window just like that. It also gives the business a lot of cost savings as the IT infrastructure is NOT required to be built and run for the maximum load capacity. Whenever a load is predicted, the infrastructure can be scaled up in no time. In fact some of the vendors offers auto-scaling, where depending on the CPU load, new servers would get spawned on-the-go. This move of reducing cost and increasing speed of execution leads to a culture of innovation where new ideas can be tried quickly in a much shorter time.

6) Before you jump into Cloud...
If you are somewhat convinced that Cloud may benefit you as a business, the first thing that you need to do is - define the Cloud strategy for your organization. Every organization is different and the need and security requirements differ. Based on that the organization needs to decide which types of applications and which environments can go on cloud. For example, a Financial organization might decide to start with the UAT/Dev environments of the business applications and Production environments of the non-critical applications on cloud. Based on that decision, a clear Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) needs to be derived. Typically a 5 year horizon can be taken to do this CBA to compare Cloud vs. On-premise infrastructure. Security is a key factor in moving to Cloud. Most of the big Cloud vendors provide enough ways to manage security. It's upto the right sort of implementation, on which the enterprise security stands rather than the platform capability. As part of this, the organization also needs to check compliance with the local authorities, especially where customer data is involved. With all of this in place, it's important that the organization trains the staff with the right skills before embarking on the Cloud journey.

As part of my current job, I have worked on deploying certain business applications on Amazon Web Services. For any further details or any other relevant queries, please feel free to get in touch at my email id (csubhamoy@gmail.com).

Happy journey to the Cloud world!

Did you search for the deck? It's available on Slideshare:

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