cloud computing: Cloud in computer science is commonly understood as music from the phone, photos, a text editor available to many people simultaneously. These consumer applications’ infrastructure is usually the “in-house” – business cloud, and we will focus on it in this article.
Cloud – as defined by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – is a model of universal, convenient “on-demand” access to shared, configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, data repositories, applications, and services) that can be prepared and be made available for use in a short time, with minimal administrative overhead and minimal interaction with the service provider. The cloud defined in this way is available on-demand via the network, self-service, using shared resources, highly flexible, and measurable.
For the full picture, it is worth adding that clouds can be divided into the following categories:
- The private cloud is shared only by one organization, involving several consumers (e.g., business units). A private cloud can be administered by this or another organization. This model offers the most benefits and possibilities, particularly the software-defined data center variant. For most IT managers, it means the need to build a cloud (read: time, capital, and risk), but it is worth noting that there are such clouds for rent available on the market.
- The public cloud is made available for general use. The user of such a cloud has less access to the layer of automation, management, etc., compared to a private cloud.
- Hybrid cloud – consisting of a private cloud and a public cloud (or clouds ) connected so that it is possible to transfer data and applications between them. The most advantageous implementation of the hybrid model is one in which the public cloud is an extension of the private cloud, i.e.it does not differ from the cloud administration point of view.
Regardless of the type of cloud computing, it is a modern data processing center (and often several interconnected centers) that offers a previously unavailable level of resource availability, utilization, and resource management automation.
The demand for the cloud is constantly growing, and the ever-changing economy drives it. In the 1930s, the company that made it to the Top 500 list was on average 90 years old, and today that time has dropped to 17 years and continues to decline. Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons is the progress, especially in IT technology. Over the past twenty years, the monthly cost of online presence has fallen roughly a hundredfold – thus lowering the barriers to entry. This means that unknown companies can quickly reach global reach (eg, Airbnb or Uber). Of course, there are more factors, but the effect is that business leaders are under increasing pressure to accelerate, offer new solutions and functionalities faster to win and retain customers, especially mobile ones.
The “Embracing a Digital Future” report, prepared in October 2016 by Vanson Bourne and Dell Technologies, summarizes the responses of over 400 business leaders when asked what they believe are the most important success factors in the new economy. Among the most frequently mentioned are: agility in innovation, anticipating new opportunities, transparency and trust, delivering unique, personalized experiences, and operating without interruptions in real-time (see the box Success factors in the new economy by leaders from 400 global companies ).
The priorities set in this way are undoubtedly the effect of digital transformation in business. Consider, for example, agility in innovation. A large part of Polish (and not only Polish) enterprises have a semi-annual or quarterly cycle of transferring solutions to the production environment. Until recently, such a model has proved its worth. It was stable and economical. According to him, processes were defined. It took several months to add the server or disk space. But how, while sticking to it, to handle a temporary increase in customer traffic caused by, for example, a marketing campaign? How to quickly introduce a new application for users tempted by the competition?
Currently, we have companies in Poland that update their main systems every week, which are able to provide additional computing power or disk space in minutes. This makes business reactions much easier, although it is still far behind the world leaders, updating systems even several times a minute. Increasing the frequency of updating production solutions from six months to weekly is a measure of a gigantic change that would not be possible without the creators of cloud computing: highly flexible, instantly shared, automated infrastructure built of repetitive, relatively cheap hardware components.
Someone could argue that this is the result of a global survey, which will only translate into the Polish market in a few years, so there is no pressure. Let’s check.
In 2017, VMware conducted a study called “Transformation Under Pressure.” As part of it, IT heads of large Polish companies were asked about the priorities for the coming years. They indicated technological innovations for business, improving cybersecurity, ensuring compliance with regulations and accelerating the delivery of solutions for business, improving IT efficiency (see the box entitled Priorities of IT heads of large Polish companies ).
Systemic, comprehensive implementation of these priorities is impossible under existing architectures, processes, roles, and responsibilities. On the other hand, cloud computing makes it possible to refer to them quickly in its various editions. Both of these statements are confirmed by the growing phenomenon of “shadow IT,” characterized by the fact that business units perform IT self-service by purchasing the necessary solutions “in the cloud, “bypassing their own IT organization. This is an obvious behavior when market pressure is increasing, and internal IT needs months to react.
In the context of the above research, the answer to the question of who cloud computing is for is simple: for those who agree with the above priority lists. Here are the benefits of using it.
The cloud supports agile innovation for business.
In the Gartner study on the reasons for implementing a cloud solution, respondents primarily indicated the increase in the speed of introducing new solutions.
Cloud solutions support agility and innovation on many different levels. They speed up the purchasing process – thanks to the cloud, based on standardized components (e.g., HCI), ordering necessary additional infrastructure is much faster. They facilitate access to the equipment – cloud solutions reduce the time of providing the working environment (virtualized environment) from months to minutes. They facilitate access to the software – installing and configuring the environment (Iaas, PaaS, or SaaS) is also very fast – based on predefined architecture patterns. Cloud solutions also improve the business process, such as launching a pilot service or handling load peaks, and facilitate the introduction of innovations or conducting experiments. In addition, containers, natively-cloud applications,
Cloud supports mobility
A modern customer does shopping on a mobile basis. He appreciates well-designed, easy-to-use applications. As an employee, he expects similar simplicity of operation and ease of access from corporate IT, including the possibility of using his own equipment.
Let’s look at the cloud as virtualized computing resources available everywhere, on any device, at any time (and this is the implementation of a software-defined data center-based cloud). It becomes clear that having an efficient computing cloud and a good network can provide our resources through all devices used by users: phones, tablets, notebooks, desktops. You need to run the appropriate cloud component on such a device. We can provide modern cloud applications – either traditional, made in a cloud data center, or applications wrapped in our own virtualized runtime environment. There are many technical and architectural solutions, but the effect is the same: the user has effective, safe, and efficient access to his data, programs, applications, services on any device at any time. And even if he loses his device, it’s not a problem because the data is in the cloud.
Cloud supports security
In the VMware study “Transformation under pressure,” Polish CIOs indicated the leakage of customer data as the most disastrous event for them.
Cloud, contrary to lingering myths, is safer than on-premise solutions. Moreover, some software-defined cloud implementations offer security and monitoring capabilities not available in traditional, non-virtualized architectures. The VMware hypervisor includes the NSX web component that takes care of traffic safety. One of such technologies is micro-segmentation, which enables securing the flow of information between individual components of the application in its various layers.
The use of the cloud to support mobility increases the level of security, in particular on devices owned by users, i.e., not fully under the jurisdiction of the corporate security department.
The cloud supports your business without interruptions.
A cloud-based solution where all resources (computing power, network, disk space) are virtualized means a break from the physical server. In such a situation, a failure of a single server is not a problem because the virtual machine running on it can be recreated on another server. Modern applications are de facto multi-tier applications processed on multiple nodes for load balancing and reducing the impact of failures. State-of-the-art applications built-in microservices and container architectures make even better use of the cloud’s ability to ensure continuous operation and dynamic resource reallocation.
The cloud improves the efficiency of IT operations.
The efficiency gains come from better utilization of available resources, purchasing standard x86-based components, and purchasing standard drives. Automation and self-service bring additional benefits in terms of freeing up jobs for more creative tasks.
An additional source of benefits may be handling temporary load peaks carried out by dynamically purchased resources from the hybrid cloud. The benefit will then result not from the lower cost of the public cloud (because it is not) but from the avoidance of purchasing unused power or space. ROI for various projects ranges from about 50% to 300%.
With so many advantages, cloud-based, software-defined data centers – private, public, hybrid – are the future of IT infrastructure. In this context, the answer to the question “Is the cloud for me?” seems obvious.