A beginner’s guide to the cloud
Cloud computing gives businesses greater agility. It does so by freeing them from the need to worry about individual servers, focusing instead on the services required of them. By treating IT resources as a single, instantly scalable ‘cloud’ of computing power, its users can respond faster to change and exploit opportunities as they arise.
The business case for…
The private cloud
- Ability to rapidly bring new services online without delays caused by commissioning or provisioning server infrastructure
- Increased utilisation of hardware and software infrastructure yielding greater ROI for capital expenditure
- Greater data security, control and compliance with industry-specific regulations
- Centralised control of usage, compliance and security policies via the use of shared resources
- Frictionless development as developers can get results and iterate develop cycles rapidly
The public cloud
- Increased agility in terms of response to changes in the business environment
- Reduced capital expenditure in IT hardware and software, in favour of operational expenditure
- IT outsourced to specialists, providing access to greater expertise at lower cost
The cloud from 50,000 feet
Cloud computing – named after the cloud symbol used to represent the internet in technical diagrams – is revolutionising the way computing resources are used. It allows its users to access the capacity they need, but releasing that capacity when demand falls, so it can be used elsewhere. For the first time, businesses are able to treat their IT infrastructure as a utility, rather than a fixed asset.
Cloud computing services are available over the internet from public cloud providers. But many organisations stop short of entrusting all their data and applications to the internet, instead opting to keep some operations in–house. These organisations can still benefit from the flexibility of a cloud model, however, by running internal applications on what is known as a private cloud: a cloud that runs on their own servers. Not only does this mean they can distribute their own IT resources more effectively, but also that any device that can access the network can access the full computing power of the organisation’s IT resources. A private cloud is a cloud under the full control of the organisation.
Everybody’s talking about it
- 47% of business and IT leaders claim to be using cloud or looking into it, according to IDC
- Gartner predicts that 20% of businesses will own no IT assets by 2012
- Merrill Lynch expects the global market for cloud computing products and services to be worth £160 billion by 2013
- In a 2011 survey by Mimecast, 72% of respondents said cloud services had improved end-user experience
- In the same survey, 58% agreed that the cloud has given them better control of their data
- 50% of readers responding to a recent Netmetix survey agreed that business agility is the number one reason to move to the cloud
Workloads that work in the cloud
In theory, almost any workload is suitable for the cloud. There are some reasons, however, why certain workloads might be migrated to the cloud first. Web servers and certain Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) applications are strong candidates because the cloud’s instant scalability means that sudden spikes in demand can be accommodated without service interruption. But even sensitive or regulated data can be hosted in the cloud, by introducing private or hybrid cloud infrastructure into the organisation.
As you can see from the statistics above, it seems likely that the majority of enterprise computing will soon be performed on cloud infrastructure, regardless of the nature of the workload.
The importance of the open cloud
From the perspective of the user, cloud computing greatly simplifies the process of accessing computing resources. But, as with any enterprise IT platform, the underlying technology involved in delivering on that promise can be complex. To work effectively and efficiently, a cloud computing platform must be based on absolute interoperability between its various components, protocols and APIs. Organisations must be able to move critical workloads to the cloud, with the confidence that what works on one platform from one vendor will work on another — and will even work if the workload is brought back in–house, onto private cloud infrastructure. The best way to ensure this level of vendor–agnostic compatibility is to insist on open–source technology that complies with established, open standards. In the cloud computing world, this is known as the open cloud.
Ubuntu is the most popular open–source operating system for cloud deployments. Its server edition includes OpenStack, the leading open-source cloud platform. It also includes popular open-source virtualisation technologies such as KVM and Xen, a vital layer in cloud infrastructure. These open–source building blocks make it possible for workloads to be moved between different public clouds and your own private cloud infrastructure as demand dictates — and for your business to capitalise on the flexibility the cloud provides.
Public, private or hybrid – what’s the difference?
Refers to services from cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) that offer access to computing power and storage capacity over the internet, with billing based on usage, rather than any fixed costs.
Refers to cloud infrastructure developed internally by organisations that need to combine the agility of the cloud with the security and control of
Is a combination of the two, often adopted by organisations that require greater control over come of the data they hold, yet still wish to run certain workloads on public cloud infrastructure as required.