So you’re new to cloud. It sounds scary and intimidating. There are many people saying that companies should switch to cloud. People talking about the benefits and how it works. People who say it’s the future. You’ve done some web searching to find out what exactly the cloud is. There’s a lot of word-heavy terminology used to describe it because it is synonymously used to describe the benefits of the cloud, not really what the cloud is or does.

What is cloud? The cloud is a method where you are provided IT resources as a service. This means servers, networks, platforms, and software. A provider takes ownership of all related resources and processes, and you pay them a monthly fee.

If the cloud is nothing more than servers being hosted for you, then why go cloud? After all, you’ve already made a heavy investment in infrastructure. There shouldn’t be a need to switch over to having a cloud provider host your machines when you’ve already paid for them, right?

The difference lies within the service that is being provided to you. Cloud providers bestow an easy-to-use, configurable way to spin up servers, networks, and storage on demand, quickly. They can be in charge of your hardware, your data, and all of the processes related to it (disaster recovery, maintenance, capacity management, etc.) so you have time to focus on your business.

The important benefits that you gain when switching to have your servers and services hosted on the cloud are:

  • Agility

  • Scalability

  • Reliability

  • Security

  • Cost

Agility

Think about how much time it takes to provision a full application to your environment. You would first have to discover each tier of the application (web, application, data, etc.) and determine each hardware need.

Assuming you don’t have a capacity to produce a large application, you would have to go through the request and procurement process to obtain the hardware. This requires you to very closely right-size the capital expenditure so you don’t overpay for the hardware.

When it’s done, you’ll have to install the servers in the datacenter, deploy the virtualization software to the machine, and start to build the machines as stated in the specification. Now, even if your company is one of the few that diligently buys and over allocates hardware to compensate future capacity trends, we’re still looking at an inability to rapidly provision servers when a business unit needs it.

One of the characteristics of cloud that makes it so appealing is the ability to quickly provision on demand. No up-front investment, no additional labor cost. Simply select a server size, an operating system, and other configurations you’re looking for, and the cloud can create that server for you in minutes. Agility means time, and the less time you have to spend on workload tasks, the more time you can work on the more important things that deliver value to the business.

Scalability

Determining capacity remains an elusive task for many companies. The resources you need are predicted through trends of what has been used. The problem with predictions are that they are not always right. Even more important, it’s very hard to acquire additional hardware and resources using predictions. As a matter of fact, many infrastructures choose to downgrade servers rather than buy more hardware.

The cloud cuts through this with (seemingly) unlimited resources that you can pool and use. Need 5,000 more web servers across the world for a few weeks to handle your Black Friday sales? No problem with cloud. The ability to never have to worry about maximum capacity and to focus on right-sizing existing resources becomes the de-facto standard with cloud.

Reliability and security

If you don’t own your servers, and your data is no longer in house, how do you work through strategies like business continuity and disaster recovery? How do you control risk and cybersecurity?

This boils down to trust. Cloud providers have spent a lot of time working to pass security and regulatory agencies, like PCI, HIPAA, and Sarbanes-Oxley. They also have a large amount of resources dedicated to keeping and securing data. After all, why would a provider go through all of the money they’ve spent on preparing the cloud for the biggest of businesses, only to get hacked and have countless lawsuits on their hands? With cloud providers, you own your data, it is secure and their disaster recovery service-level agreements (SLAs) are unmatched.

Cost

This section was so massive that we wrote an article that helps explain it. Check our article, The Cloud: From Cost to Profit Center.

Types of cloud

Wait, there’s more than one type of cloud? Yes, and each of them are enhancements to the last. We’ll describe them below:

  • On-premises (private cloud)

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a service (SaaS)

SaaS offerings are turnkey solutions in which a cloud provider gives you access to targeted application services. Your company is not required to install, configure, or deploy any infrastructure. The provider does all of it. For many organizations, SaaS represents the first foray into the cloud. With flagship SaaS products, such as Office 365 and Salesforce CRM, enterprise products that can offer true cloud solutions represent the majority of growth in the competitive cloud marketplace.

For any enterprise looking for to procure new enterprise applications, SaaS is generally the first stop on the journey. While potentially sacrificing some flexibility, organizations receive an operationalized subscription service that is available the moment you are ready.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

For organizations that leverage and build applications, PaaS cloud offerings give you the best of the cloud and the best of customized solutions.

With PaaS, your development teams focus on one thing: developing the application solutions that add value to your business, and nothing that does not. Your team members can focus on code, data, and integration, and the infrastructure is left to the cloud provider. The advantage of PaaS is that your teams can get the flexibility of custom solutions with the infrastructure and management capabilities of public cloud.

PaaS applications are also uniquely valuable because they offer the following functionality:

  • Unlimited, push-button scaling without deploying new code

  • Transparent and independent infrastructure patching and updates

  • Simplified distribution among many application servers

  • Deployment capabilities that allow your company to deploy as many environments as you desire, pay for the temporary usage, and then scale back when the resources are not used

  • Unified management portal and application performance management (APM) 

PaaS applications represent the greatest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and fastest time to market for custom solutions and are valuable for both the startup and enterprise. PaaS makes the development, testing, and deployment of applications simple and cost-effective.

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

In an IaaS environment, you’re simply moving your virtual machines from your datacenter to the cloud. The impact of doing so is that you will not have to worry about capacity or the cost of factors like cooling or equipment. You are not required to move all your machines to the cloud. In fact, most organizations select a combination of servers hosted in cloud and some in their own datacenter for moving to the cloud – and that’s what’s called hybrid cloud.

Selecting which servers move is essentially a business decision based on considerations like cost, hardware lease renewals, or software licensing requirements. For example, if App A is running on old hardware that needs replaced, why not move it to the cloud instead of purchasing new hardware? Your server will still be the same as it was before, with the same configurations and settings. Nothing has changed except for where the server exists.

On-Premises (private cloud)

How is private cloud (one where you own all the resources) different from a typical datacenter? A datacenter doesn’t provide those resources like a service, whereas a private cloud does, with key elements being automation and self-service capabilities. 

You can leverage your existing hardware investment to give your business the same experience as using a cloud provider. This still provides some of the business value and benefits as a true public cloud, but without a huge expenditure. That’s one main reason why a business would want to make their datacenter a private cloud. They’ve already spent money to have that expensive datacenter on-premises. They may want the benefits of the cloud, but they can’t throw those dollars out the window. The private cloud is the answer to gaining cloud benefits now, but not getting rid of your existing datacenter investment. As the equipment and licenses expire, the transition to a hybrid or public cloud makes more sense.  

You can transform your datacenter into a private cloud by meeting two goals:

  • Make your datacenter capable of providing self-service so that staff can request servers, infrastructure, or any other IT request through a centralized solution, such as a portal

  • Automate your datacenter so that servers, infrastructure, and other IT resources are provisioned, managed, and deprovisioned without IT intervention

Automation and self-service create tremendous efficiencies for IT personnel, freeing up their time to innovate in order to drive business decisions rather than spending time on repeated processes and firefighting.

Conclusion

Now you know a little more about cloud, in very real terms. That’s the first step to start making a decision on what you can actually use the cloud for and when. Companies move to the cloud for agility in an ever-changing world. 

While some organizations are still swamped managing their infrastructure and IT, others have moved to the cloud and are able to focus on driving business. This provides an unmatched competitive edge, and with the cloud market continuing to grow in leaps and bounds, businesses that don’t stay current in this technology revolution will be hard pressed to remain competitive.

Cloud is a huge proposition, but Fusion has the expertise to help you get there. We’ll help you understand the best strategies that will work specifically for your business and lead the way to that big cloud in the sky with our team of architects and business professionals.