Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Essential Characteristics of Cloud Computing


Let's Go Shopping: What A CIO Needs From Cloud Computing

By Dr. Jim Anderson

Ok, admit it - cloud computing is here to stay. If you haven't already signed up for a cloud then you will be doing so shortly. However, before you start writing the check, you really should know what you are buying. Everyone likes to talk about how good / bad cloud computing is; however, before now nobody has ever taken the time to talk about what you should be looking for when you go cloud shopping...

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What Makes A Cloud A Cloud

At a high level, I suspect that we all understand what cloud computing is: somebody else maintains a collection of generic servers that you can pay to use as needed. Sure sounds simple enough - it's just basically IT outsourcing taken to its logical extreme. However, there's more to it than just that.

Dave Durkee has taken a look at cloud computing and he has identified what he calls the seven essential characteristics that make up cloud computing:

  • Access on-demand: one of the key features of cloud computing is that it provides a company with more and more computing power as their needs increase.

  • Grow / Shrink: unlike the days in which a company would purchase a server, install it, and then live with it forever, cloud computing allows companies to both add and shed computing power on an as-needed basis..

  • Pay-As-You-Grow: cloud computing allows a company to match its IT expenses more closely to its actual needs. Just like a gas, water, or electric utility, cloud computing is a subscription service that you get charged for based on how much you've used..

  • Lots Of Connections: although not discussed as much as it should, running your applications in the cloud assumes that you have reliable high-speed access to other servers and storage in the same cloud that you are using as well as high-speed access to the Internet..

  • Economies Of Scale: since a cloud provider is not only servicing your company, but also other companies at the same time, they should be able to buy in bulk and therefore keep costs lower than you would be able to do on your own..

  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell: when you use the cloud, you really don't know where your data or applications physically are. Despite not knowing this, the cloud provider can be expected to provide you with some level of service level agreement..

  • Dating, Not Marriage: just because you pick a particular cloud provider, doesn't mean that you have to stick with them forever. Instead, you should imagine a future where you move from cloud to cloud based on business needs..

Service Models & Things That Impact Price

The next thing that a CIO needs to understand when they go cloud shopping is just exactly what type of service model they are interested in. All clouds are not created equal.

Currently there are three different flavors of clouds for CIOs to choose from:

  1. IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service - this is a bare-bones cloud offering. You get an OS on a server with some storage and connectivity. That's it - you need to provide everything else..

  2. PaaS: Platform as a Service - this is one step up from IaaS. Instead of a raw server, this time out you're purchasing a complete development environment. This means that you'll get the server, OS, and some set of applications such as LAMP [Linux (operating system), Apache HTTP Server, MySQL (database software) and Perl/PHP/Python].

  3. SaaS: Software as a Service - this is the most sophisticated cloud offering currently available. Instead of worrying about servers or development stacks, you purchase access to an application that runs within the cloud. is a great example of SaaS..

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs know that moving into a cloud is no longer an "if", but rather a "when". This means that they need to spend some time to learn what they need to look for when they go cloud shopping.

CIOs need to ensure that clouds that they are considering have a set of basic characteristics. These include on-demand access, elasticity, pay-per-use, connectivity, etc. CIOs will need to decide which of the three basic cloud service models will best meet the needs of their IT department.

All clouds are not created the same. Every CIO will eventually find himself / herself shopping for a cloud. Using the guidelines that we've discussed, CIOs can compare and contrast clouds so that they can end up selecting the cloud that works best for their company...

Dr. Jim Anderson

Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills�

Dr. Jim Anderson has spent over 20 years consulting with a wide variety of IT firms from the very big to the very small. He provides you with his insights into the leadership needed to combine the separate worlds of business and IT strategy. His guidance offers hope to firms everywhere who are struggling with this challenge.

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