Want to Go Cloud? What’s the Use Case? – Part 2

Recap:

In Part 1 of this blog post, I started by reiterating the importance of having a strategy for leveraging the Cloudbefore attempting to migrate services to it in order to achieve the best results.  Using an example use case, I showed the basic pros and cons of considering moving a company’s e-mail services to the Cloud.  Then, delving further into the additional factors to consider, based on the size and breadth of the company, I showed that in that particular scenario, that an e-mail migration to the Cloud would provide more benefit to small businesses and startups instead of medium to large enterprises; wherein such a migration may actually be more detrimental than helpful.

Use the Cloud to level the playing field!

Historically, a small business is typically at a disadvantage to their larger counterparts, as they generally have less capital to work with.  However, the Cloud Era may prove to be the great equalizer.  The nimbleness and portability of a small business may prove to be quite an advantage when it comes to reducing operating costs to give the small business a competitive edge.  A small business with a small systems footprint may be able to consider strategies for moving most—if not all—of their systems to the Cloud.  A successful migration would greatly reduce company overhead, administrative burden, and increased office space and real estate by repurposing decommissioned server rooms.  Thus, a small business is able to leverage the Cloud in a way to gain a competitive advantage in a way that is (most likely) not an option for a medium or large enterprise.

So, what is a good Cloud use case for a medium to large business?

The Cloud can’t be all things to all people.  However, the Cloud can be many things to many people.  While the enterprise may not have the same options as the small business, they still have many options available to them to reduce their costs or expand their resources to accommodate their needs in a cost-effective way.

Enterprise Use Case 1: Using IaaS for public website hosting

A good low-risk Cloud option that an enterprise can readily consider: moving non-critical, non-confidential informational data to the Cloud.  A good candidate for initial Cloud migration would be a corporate website with marketing materials or information about product or service offerings.  It is important that a company’s website containing product photos, advertising information, hours of operation and location and contact information is available 24/7 for customer and potential customer access.  In this case, the enterprise can leverage a Cloud Service Provider’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in order to host their website.  For a monthly service fee, the Cloud Service Provider will host the enterprise’s website on redundant, highly available infrastructure and proactively monitor the site to ensure maximum uptime.  (The enterprise should consider the Cloud Service Provider’s SLA when determining their uptime needs).

By this strategy, the enterprise is able to ensure maximum uptime for it important revenue-generating web materials, while offloading the costs associated with hosting and maintenance of the website.  At the same time, the data being presented online is not confidential in nature, so there is little risk in having it hosted externally.  This is an ideal use case of a Public Cloud.

In addition to the above, a Hybrid Cloud approach can also be adopted: the public-facing website could conduct e-commerce transactions by redirecting purchase requests to privately hosted e-commerce applications and customer databases that are secure and PCI compliant.  Thus, we have an effective, hybrid use of Cloud resources to leverage high availability, while still keeping confidential customer and credit card data secure and internally hosted. We’ll actually be hosting a webinar tomorrow with guest speakers from Forrester Research and Gravitant that will talk about hybrid cloud management. If you’re interested in learning more about how to properly manage your IT environment, I’d highly recommend sitting in.

Enterprise Use Case 2: Using Cloud Bursting to accommodate increased resource demands as needed

Another good Public Cloud use case: let’s say a company, operating at maximum capacity, has periodic or seasonal needs to accommodate spikes in workload.  This could either be increased demands on applications and infrastructure, or needing extra staff to perform basic clerical or administrative functions on a limited basis.  It would be a substantial investment to procure additional office space and computer hardware for limited use—not to mention the additional expenses of maintaining the hardware and office space.  In such a case, an enterprise using a Cloud Service Provider’s IaaS would be able to rapidly provision virtual servers and desktops that can be accessed via space-saving thinclients, or even remotely.  Once the project is completed, those virtual machines can be deleted.  Upon future need, new virtual machines could easily be provisioned in the same way.  And most importantly, the company only pays for what it needs, when it needs it.  This is another great way for an enterprise to leverage the Cloud’s elasticity to accommodate its dynamic needs!

Enterprise Use Case 3: Fenced testing environments for application development

Application teams often need to simulate production conditions for testing, while not effecting actual production.  When dealing with traditional hardware infrastructure, setting up a dedicated development infrastructure could be an expensive and time consuming proposition.  In addition, the Apps team may require many identical setups for multiple teams’ testing, or to simulate many scenarios using the same parameters such as IP and MAC addresses.  With traditional hardware setups, this is an extremely difficult task to achieve in a productive, isolated manner.  However, with Cloud services, such as VMware’s vCloud Suite, isolated fenced applications can be provisioned and mass-produced quickly for an Apps team’s use without affecting production, and then can be rapidly decommissioned as well.  In this particular example use case of the vCloud Suite, VMware’s Chargeback Manager can also be used to get a handle on the costs associated with development environment setup, which can then provide showback and chargeback reports to a department, organization, or other business entity.  This is yet another good example of an efficient and cost-effective use of the Cloud to solve a complex business need.

Consider your strategy first!  Then, use the Cloud to your advantage!

So, as we have seen, the Cloud offers various time-saving, flexible, efficient solutions, that can accommodate businesses of any size or nature.  However, the successful transition to the Cloud depends—more than anything else—on the initial planning and strategy that goes into its adoption.

Of course, there are many other options and variables to consider in a Cloud adoption strategy, such as choice of providers, consulting services, etc.  However, before even looking into the various Cloud vendors and options, start out by asking the important internal questions, first:

  • What are our business goals?
  • What are our intended use case(s) for the Cloud?
  • What are we looking to achieve from its use?
  • What is the problem that we are trying to solve?  (And is the Cloud the right choice for that particular problem?)
  • What type of Cloud service would address our need? (Public, Private, Hybrid?)
  • What is our timetable for transition to the Cloud?
  • What is our plan?  Is it feasible?
  • What is our contingency plan?  (How do we backup and/or back-out?)

When a company has solid answers for question such as the above, they are ready to begin their own journey to the cloud.

This is a guest post from Lawrence Kohan, from Journey to the Cloud

Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1110057

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