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August 13th, 2010

Every year or so the high technology industry gets a new buzzword or experiences a paradigm shift which is hyped as “the next big thing.”
For the last 12 months or so, cloud computing has had that distinction. Anyone reading all the vendor-generated cloud computing press releases and associated news articles and blogs would conclude that corporations are building and deploying both private and public clouds in record breaking numbers. The reality is much more sobering. An ITIC independent Web-based survey that polled IT managers and C-level professionals at 700 organizations worldwide in January 2010, found that spending on cloud adoption was not a priority for the majority of survey participants during calendar 2010. In fact only 6 percent of participants said that private cloud spending was a priority this year and an even smaller 3 percent minority say that public cloud spending is a priority this year.
Those findings are buttressed by the latest joint ITIC/Sunbelt Software survey data (which is still live); it indicates that just under 20 percent of organizations have implemented a public or a private cloud. When asked why, nearly two-thirds or 65 percent of the respondents said they felt no compelling business need. Translation: they feel safe inside the confines of their current datacenters here on Terra Firma.

While there is a great deal of interest in the cloud infrastructure model, the majority of midsized and enterprise organizations are not rushing to install and deploy private or public clouds in 2010.

However, that is not to say that organizations – especially mid-sized and large enterprises – are not considering cloud implementations. ITIC research indicates that many businesses are more focused on performing much needed upgrades to such essentials as disaster recovery, desktop and server hardware, operating systems, applications, bandwidth and storage before turning their attention to new technologies like cloud computing.
Despite the many articles written about public and private cloud infrastructures over the past 18 months, many businesses remain confused about cloud specifics such as characteristics, costs, operational requirements, integration and interoperability with their existing environment or how to even get started.
De-Mystifying the Cloud
But just what is cloud computing, exactly? Definitions vary. The simplest, most straightforward definition is that a cloud is a grid or utility style pay-as-you-go computing model that uses the Web to deliver applications and services in real-time.
Organizations can choose to deploy a private cloud infrastructure wherein they host their services on-premises from behind the safety of the corporate firewall. The advantage here is that the IT department always knows what’s going on with all aspects of the corporate data from bandwidth, CPU utilization to all-important security issues. Alternatively, organizations can opt for a public cloud deployment in which a third party like Amazon Web Services (a division of hosts the services at a remote location. This latter scenario saves businesses money and manpower hours by utilizing the host provider’s equipment and management. All that is needed is a Web browser and a high-speed Internet connection to connect to the host to access applications, services and data. However, the public cloud infrastructure is also a shared model in which corporate customers share bandwidth and space on the host’s servers.
Organizations that are extremely concerned about security and privacy issues and those that desire more control over their data can opt for a private cloud infrastructure in which the hosted services are delivered to the corporation’s end users from behind the safe confines of an internal corporate firewall. However, a private cloud is more than just a hosted services model that exists behind the confines of a firewall. Any discussion of private and/or public cloud infrastructure must also include virtualization. While most virtualized desktop, server, storage and network environments are not yet part of a cloud infrastructure, just about every private and public cloud will feature a virtualized environment.
Organizations contemplating a private cloud also need to ensure that they feature very high (near fault tolerant) availability with at least “five nines” 99.999% uptime or better. The private cloud should also be able to scale dynamically to accommodate the needs and demands of the users. And unlike most existing, traditional datacenters, the private cloud model should also incorporate a high degree of user-based resource provisioning. Ideally, the IT department should also be able to track resource usage in the private cloud by user, department or groups of users working on specific projects, for chargeback purposes.
Private clouds will also make extensive use of business intelligence and business process automation to guarantee that resources are available to the users on demand.
Given the Spartan economic conditions of the last two years, all but the most cash-rich organizations (and there are very few of those) will almost certainly have to upgrade their network infrastructure in advance of migrating to a private cloud environment. Organizations considering outsourcing any of their datacenter needs to a public cloud will also have to perform due diligence to determine the bona fides of their potential cloud service providers.
There are three basic types of cloud computing although the first two are the most prevalent. They are:
• Software as a Service (SaaS) which uses the Web to deliver software applications to the customer. Examples of this are, which has one of the most popular, widely deployed, and the earliest cloud-based CRM application and Google Apps, which is experiencing solid growth. Google Apps comes in three editions – Standard, Education and Premier (the first two are free). It provides consumers and corporations with customizable versions of the company’s applications like Google Mail, Google Docs and Calendar.
• Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings; examples of this include the above-mentioned Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s nascent Windows Azure Platform. The Microsoft Azure cloud platform offering contains all the elements of a traditional application stack from the operating system up to the applications and the development framework. It includes the Windows Azure Platform AppFabric (formerly .NET Services for Azure) as well as the SQL Azure Database service. Customers that build applications for Azure will host it in the cloud. However, it is not a multi-tenant architecture meant to host your entire infrastructure. With Azure, businesses will rent resources that will reside in Microsoft datacenters. The costs are based on a per usage model. This gives customers the flexibility to rent fewer or more resources depending on their business needs.
• Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is exactly what its name implies: the entire infrastructure becomes a multi-tiered hosted cloud model and delivery mechanism.
Both public and private clouds should be flexible and agile: the resources should be available on demand and should be able to scale up or scale back as the businesses’ needs dictate.

Next: In Part 2 The Pros and Cons of the Cloud

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