Everyone’s heard the term by now, but what does “the cloud” actually mean?
Historically, companies purchased networking gear, storage, service arrays, and so on because they needed to be able to run their business. This stuff – the storage and networking side of things – is not their core business. The cloud, in essence, focuses on specialization. Infrastructure services like Amazon AWS, Google GCE, and Microsoft Azure are unparalleled in managing high volume, high availability, high scalability infrastructure. There are also some great platforms out there like Pivotal Cloud Foundry and RedHat OpenShift which really help accelerate how businesses move apps and services to the cloud. The cloud is a service offering that allows companies to make better use of their platforms and technologies and focus on improving their own core business, making them more agile in the process.
It’s not that different from having another data center – you’re outsourcing someone to manage it for you. The cloud just has no inherent limitations and much greater flexibility to spin up or scale. If you think about it in that context, companies can use the cloud to balance the load across different data centers.
From an industry perspective, who is using the cloud?
The consumer internet has been the number one adopter, by far. Social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and companies like Google and Yahoo were the first companies that had the fundamental challenges of scaling, which broke the traditional ways of thinking about platforms. Plus, they have more flexibility with security. Financial services and healthcare, on the other hand, have stringent regulations about how to deal with private data. Other industries, like utilities and manufacturing, haven’t changed very rapidly and have been slow to adopt new technologies. Likewise, retail has historically been a laggard in moving to the cloud, with the notable exception of Amazon. They have been so successful in ecommerce, perhaps because they viewed technology as a strategy, rather than just a cost of doing business. Amazon has taken marketing and coupled it with technology to grow rapidly.
Why should someone consider making the leap to cloud?
Cloud has the capability to fundamentally change the ways companies do business. It gives them the flexibility to be more responsive and reactive to the competitive landscape, plus the benefit of better understanding customers, access to detailed analytics, and the ability to release products and services more quickly. Who wouldn’t want that?
Realistically, there’s an opportunity for every company to benefit in some way from migration to the cloud, even if it’s just moving a few applications for cost savings and greater operational efficiency.
I’m interested in cloud. Now what?
The first step is simply deciding where to start. Any new service makes sense to try in the cloud. New products? Try the cloud. There’s no legacy baggage to worry about and you can get some quick wins that way. To fundamentally change the business, though, you need to think about how you migrate and evolve your existing data to the cloud, which is a more complex operation.
The second step is to understand the various technologies and vendors that exist in the current landscape. It’s fragmented right now and many vendors are strong – there are pros to all of them from a cloud vendor partner standpoint, so it’s just a matter of estimating the necessary capabilities. Make a determination about what applications to start with and then you can select a vendor that fits those needs. Certainly, Concord is a willing partner in helping to make those decisions or assist with implementation of any choices that have already been made.
How do I choose the applications to migrate? What makes an app a good fit for cloud?
Ideally, companies would look outside of just IT for cloud migration. The business should provide feedback on applications that are good candidates – like inventory systems, custom business applications, or apps within different departments. Most companies will have hundreds of apps, which are generally aligned by function. Certain functions are easier or more beneficial to migrate to the cloud and just make more sense than others. Right now we’re seeing HR, CRM, ERP, and supply chain all migrating to the cloud, which are these big, core systems. All communication, email, is moving to the cloud. Really, there isn’t anything that doesn’t fit there.
Should I be worried about security risks?
Each cloud vendor has a pretty robust security framework. It’s just important to understand how these vendors, like Google, Amazon, and so on, map to security and make sure that it aligns with your company’s view of security. Most cloud vendors are running their own business on the same infrastructure that they provide, so they have self-serving reasons to be stringent on security from that standpoint and it forces them to address any issues quickly. The recent Amazon Web Services outage is proof of that – which, for the record, was user error and not a security breach. They will automate and make sure it doesn’t happen again. They’re still the most reliable web service, much more so than if you were to manage your own.