Monday, 7 January 2013

Moving to the Cloud

We are living in the middle of another transition, which knowingly or unknowingly started to influence IT industry and us. More and more of your day to day applications are moving from desktop to web, and web is moving to clouds. You’re already using cloud if you’re using Dropbox/SkyDrive/Box/Google Drive/iDrive, Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365. There’re thousands of other services but I’m leaving it here for brevity.

Now - as a business why should I move to cloud model? -  You may ask. Let’s analyse few scenarios and see for ourselves:

Cloud computing is barely proven in the enterprise. No one knows for sure how it will turn out, which strategies will prove to be successful and which will end in misery. Few people can even agree on what cloud computing is. But everyone seems to agree something needs to be done to accommodate today’s business needs with petabytes of data (that’d increasing forever) flowing in and the need to churn them out to produce something useful.

The pace of business is accelerating, and those who work fastest will win. Cloud strategy needs to take into account not just efficiency gains and cost savings, but the power to do things faster than anyone else. That could be analysing stock movements, delivering search results, diagnosing faults, generating quotes. You will need to deploy new servers & services instantly to get an advantage over your competition.

Think you’re an online retail business anticipating a seasonal rush of customers, or a startup that lands the front page of Time Magazine or Hacker News, then you need cope with the huge spike in traffic without having to add new servers that you won’t need later.  The key here is using cloud & not to lock into any proprietary systems if you have a private cloud. Then you will be able to move your apps & data between public/private clouds such as Rackspace or AWS (Amazon web service).
With energy prices and data volumes soaring, the cost of running a traditional datacentre is already nearing unworkable levels. And by the way chip manufacturers are moving to create energy efficient chipsets (ARM for instance), you will get better hardware day after another & having to upgrade yourself each time might not be viable. Also, big datacentres are moving to more energy efficient & green technologies to power their Datacentres (like of google & others). So it’s a wise decision to make use of better managed cloud provider’s service than do it yourself.

In the current economic situation, the less you spend (on unnecessary things), the better placed you are to adapt, survive and grow whatever the economic climate. One of the big attractions of cloud is that it frees businesses from having to buy new hardware for every new application, service or bank of users. Another benefit of cloud being, your ability to scale computing resources up or down with demand.
While cloud is undoubtedly the right way to go, the choice of vendor, infrastructure, tools and applications will all have a serious impact on future success. Keeping options open and flexible is the best strategy.

With Open sourcing OpenStack by Rackspace, you can have your own private cloud that is tested and stable. Also there’s a bust of cloud service providers around openstack too. But that means you have to manage your infrastructure. If that’s too much hassles for you and you want to avoid costs associated with it you have abundance of public cloud providers to choose from. Or you can have a mix. Cloud computing providers offer their services according to three fundamental models: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).
IaaS can fulfil your datacentre needs by offering virtual machines and special services such as Virtual LANs, firewalls, Load balancers etc. In this model, it is the cloud user who is responsible for patching and maintaining the operating systems and application software. Cloud providers typically bill IaaS services on a utility computing basis, that is, cost reflects the amount of resources allocated and consumed. Examples includes Amazon EC2, Rackspace cloud, Windows Azure, Google Compute Engine, etc.,

In the PaaS model, cloud providers deliver a computing platform typically including operating system, programming language execution environment, database, and web server. Application developers can develop and run their software solutions on a cloud platform without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software layers. Examples are Google App Engine, Heroku, Amazone beanstalk, Force from Salesforce & Orange scape (which is Chennai based).
In the SaaS model, cloud providers install and operate application software in the cloud and cloud users access the software from cloud clients. The cloud users do not manage the cloud infrastructure and platform on which the application is running. This eliminates the need to install and run the application on the cloud user's own computers simplifying maintenance and support & applications will be scalable by definition. Examples includes: Google Apps & Microsoft Office 365.

So, when are you planning to move to cloud?