All too often, vendors talk about products or features when customers really want solutions and “how do I get there?” models for evolving their business. Cloud Computing is a topic that definitely falls into the latter category because it isn’t a single piece of hardware or software, but rather it’s a new way to align business needs with technology capabilities.
For many companies, Cloud Computing represents both an opportunity and a challenge. From an opportunity perspective, it potentially represents a chance to leapfrog your competition by leveraging technology as a core driver of new business models. This would create a compelling business differentiation and it’s most likely what every CIO will be talking about in 2011. From a challenge perspective, it introduces some new types of change that your company will need to address, such as:
- How to think about an IT strategy for Cloud Computing?
- How to measure IT success in a Cloud Computing world?
- How will IT groups interact as technology changes with Cloud Computing?
- What will my company looking like from a technology perspective during the Cloud Computing journey?
[WARNING] It’s very possible that this post could get slightly lengthy, so if you’d like the cliff-notes version, check out Cisco’s Enterprise Private Cloud homepage and click on the short video at the top. 3 minutes could save you months or years on your Cloud Computing strategy.
Evolving the Data Center to Private Cloud
GETTING STARTED WITH PRIVATE CLOUD
For many businesses, the surface level appeal of public Cloud Computing is compelling. Resources that are measured in pennies per/hour or per/GB and immediately available sounds like a quick fix for any IT frustrations. But when they take a deeper look at those services, they often realize that it may not be the right fit for all their IT needs. Maybe it’s long-term pricing, security concerns, required levels of transparency or industry regulations that make them think twice before wholesale migration outside their existing infrastructure.
But this doesn’t stop business from asking themselves how they can leverage the technology best-practices from public services within their own Data Centers. This often leads them to ask themselves, their solutions partners and their vendors how they could build a “Private Cloud“? It also usually gets them asking about a broader strategy to leverage multiple types of Cloud Computing services, frequently known as “Hybrid Cloud“.
FROM COST SAVINGS TO CLOUD COMPUTING
As you look at the slides above, many people often ask, “How is a virtualized Data Center different from Private Cloud?” While many of the underlying technologies can be the same, I tend to point out several aspects that highlight where or when the transition happens:
- As IT organization expands their virtualization efforts, they stop focusing on consolidating VMs for cost savings and begin thinking about virtualization as an enabler for more dynamic IT resources.
- As the inefficiencies of silo’d infrastructure (per-application or per-department) are exposed for being underutilized, IT organizations begin to look at ways to create shared pools of resources that can be dynamically reallocated to service business needs.
- IT organizations stop making exceptions (networking, storage, etc.) every time a new application gets deployed in the virtualized or shared environment. They begin creating broader policies, that cross functional groups, to align the emerging technologies with the organizational skills and processes. [NOTE: This often happens somewhere between 10-20% virtualization]
- Automation of deployment and operational tasks are no longer considered a luxury, but rather a necessity to balance cost-savings and flexibility.
CONSOLIDATION -> VIRTUALIZATION -> AUTOMATION
Often times we talk about the steps (or change-events) that happen along a journey towards a Private Cloud environment, and many customers ask if it’s a linear progress. Sometimes it is, but other times those stages will happen in parallel for certain aspects of the Data Center. If often depends on who or where in the IT organization the change is originating. In the case of Cisco IT, we took a holistic view of where we needed the business to be in 3-5 years and built an architectural framework to support that. We’ve seen this same approach with other large organizations. In other cases, smaller groups within IT have created lighthouse areas within the business to highlight how positive change can have huge impacts on the overall business. In many cases, I suspect those IT organizations might have been reading this book.
The market to deliver Cloud Computing solutions and services is getting more crowded by the week, so it can often be difficult to explain why one approach is different than another. I try hard not to make this blog into a sales tool or purely a marketing voice, but I thought it was important to highlight the things within our Cloud strategy that we believe are differentiated and unique:
NETWORK -- I’ve written about this before, but in today’s “anywhere connectivity” driven world, the role of the network becomes more critical than ever before. Understanding how to build networks at scale is not a skill learned overnight.
INNOVATION -- Virtualization and Cloud Computing have changed the way Compute, Storage and Networking interact and need to be operated. Innovation around Video, Mobile Applications, Collaboration and Computing are driving new consumption and interaction models across every industry.
INTEGRATION - Cloud Computing delivers flexibility and choice to companies that need to better align business needs and technology capabilities. By reducing the burden to enable best-in-class technology across the Data Center, companies can focus more effort on transforming their business and driving new innovation.
OPEN -- With the mass proliferation of new devices and the variety of Cloud Computing service offerings (Public, Private, Hybrid, etc.), companies need to make IT decisions that will give them flexibility for changes ahead. Technology changes, economic changes, etc. By demanding open-standards and vendor interoperability, companies can better manage the risk associated with their IT strategy.
The next few years will bring a great deal of change to the IT industry. How companies acquire, use and evolve IT services will have a significant impact on their ability to remain competitive in a global economy. The many faces of Cloud Computing will play a significant role in those changes, along the explosion of mobile devices, the expanded use of video and the value derived from new ways to apply analytics to massive amounts of data. We believe Cisco’s strategy to enable technologies that can be consumed directly or via Service Providers delivers a unique value-proposition to customers in every industry.
Where is your business on the journey?
Are you ready for the cloud?
Please visit Cisco’s Cloud Homepage.