By Michael McEnaney
Today, the cloud is a buzz with innovation and new applications. Software providers leverage the cloud to host a wide range of new opportunities, providing solutions that address any size business model with a multitude of flexible cost options.
There are many reasons why businesses integrate cloud practices into operations, whether through a public, private, or hybrid cloud approach. Objectives include scalability, better access to IT, the offloading of IT management and maintenance, disaster recovery, and global availability and performance.
In February, RightScale published its RightScale 2014 State of the Cloud Report, which indicates that hybrid and multi-cloud implementations continue to be the end goal for enterprises. Further, it finds that maturity matters when it comes to the cloud. “As organizations adopt the cloud more broadly, they realize increasingly more value, and the challenges of adopting the cloud decline. As organizations progress in cloud maturity, the types of workloads they deploy in the cloud get broader,” says the study.
Workload types deployed in the cloud include test and development applications (apps), customer Web apps, internal Web apps, batch processing, and mobile apps.
With the benefits come challenges. Security tops the list, while compliance, cost, and performance are also deterrents.
The cloud as an enterprise market is seeing steady growth numbers. Research firm IDC put worldwide spending of public IT cloud services at approximately $47.4 billion for 2013. Furthermore, IDC expects the category to reach more than $107 billion by 2017, and they forecast public IT cloud services to experience a compound annual growth rate of 23.5 percent—five times that of the IT industry as a whole.
In addition, Gartner predicts that cloud computing will account for the majority of new IT spending by 2016, and by the end of 2017, nearly half of all large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments.
Here, cloud providers discuss the ins and outs of key considerations for cloud adoption, including security, scalability, integration, and the value chain. As cloud technologies evolve, enterprises look for innovation in these key areas to address concerns and garner benefits.
Security has always been a concern when talking cloud services. However, those in the know on this subject will tell you that the cloud today is actually more secure than traditional systems.
Rene Dufrene, AVP, product marketing management, AT&T, understands security concerns are a big part of the mix where the cloud is concerned.
“We know our customers want to achieve the economic and innovation benefits of the cloud, but yes, they are really concerned about security, performance, and losing control of their environment as they make the shift,” he starts. “This is one of the reasons we developed AT&T NetBondSM as a highly secure network onramp to the cloud. This is particularly important for those accessing critical workloads. With AT&T NetBondSM they can combine the benefits of our MPLS VPN with the benefits of cloud to create a high-performing solution.”
Jim Potter, VP, product management, Hostway Corp., agrees that the worm has turned on the question of security in the cloud today, as more businesses migrate core apps to cloud hosting.
“Initially we saw companies choosing to migrate to the cloud gradually. At first, they limited their cloud operations to activities like development and testing,” says Potter, regarding security concerns. “But now that the industry has reached mainstream status and demonstrated that data stored in the cloud is as secure—or even more secure—than information residing in onsite hardware assets, more companies are embracing the cloud to handle their most mission-critical apps.”
John Boruvka, VP, intellectual property management, Iron Mountain, feels enterprise buyers need to place cloud security high on their list of priorities when selecting a provider.
“Buyers need to be confident that their cloud-based solutions can securely handle data and recover it in case there are problems. Enterprises must think through the basic who, what, where, when, and how questions when choosing a cloud-based solution,” explains Boruvka.
While the specifics surrounding privacy issues in the cloud can vary by industry and country, common concerns remain, such as steering clear of data breaches, he points out.
“Overall, it is the security, confidentiality, and availability of the personal information at stake, so avoiding data breaches and unauthorized access are paramount,” adds Boruvka.
In addition, the subject of data breaches can be a touchy one. According to a recent Ponemon Institute study, the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. now sits at around $3.5 million.
Boruvka points to Iron Mountain’s SaaSProtect Business Continuity Services as a prime example of a disaster recovery and risk management solution that provides the kind of confidence he refers to. He adds that SaasProtect, “ensures app continuity and data availability, so it helps to foster trust between all parties—and make peace of mind an attainable goal.”
Integration and Flexibility
Cloud service providers focus on mobility and, equally as important, flexibility in their offerings. It’s all about offering customers the ability to scale capacity up or down rapidly, as well as offering them options to reduce capital expenditures and operating expenses—something the cloud now specializes in.
“Small businesses lacking IT expertise have been ideally suited for software as a service (SaaS) applications because they gain access to features and capabilities that would otherwise be beyond their budgets and resources,” explained Ken Oestreich, senior director of product marketing for cloud services, Citrix.
Citrix also works with managed service providers that provide customers with complete business-ready desktop as a service, virtual app management, and secure cloud-based file sharing.
Oestreich adds that offering the right mix of cloud service tools is an important part of the equation.
“When enterprises choose to move apps and/or desktops to the cloud, our cloud and service provider vendors offer a mix of data and app migration tools. In addition, they use tools such as AppDNA to ensure that apps work flawlessly in a Citrix virtual environment,” he explains.
The AppDNA service Oestreich mentions is all about helping customers take the guesswork out of how new technology platforms will perform and enabling them to base estimates of project time, cost, and resources on facts rather than assumptions.
For many software developers, the cloud has become the way to work around using the IT department, as that can often slow a project to a crawl.
As Shawn McPherron, cloud marketing manager, Fujitsu America, explains, speed really does thrill when talking cloud integration.
“Many cloud services are easy to use because they are designed with simple-to-use portals, self-service interfaces, and the ability to deploy resources, such as systems or applications very quickly,” says McPherron. “Cloud services usually have a better business value when you consider the speed to results and that they allow the business to do more for the same cost.”
For software developers, moving certain computer tasks to the cloud is fine, but if you take a deeper look at your IT needs and how they can work using the cloud, there’s cause for pause.
“When you’re really moving a business process to the cloud, things get interesting,” cautions McPherron. “How do you control this business process, now that it runs ‘over there?’ When you buy a SaaS solution that runs over there, how do you integrate it with other business processes? How do you monitor it and track its performance? How do you make it easy for users to get single sign on and simple, seamless access to all your cloud services, particularly when you may have several SaaS and cloud systems in your hybrid world?” he asks.
One answer to those queries may come in the form of what Fujitsu calls Fujitsu Cloud Integration Platform (FCIP), a simple platform that gives IT and businesses the tools to manage cloud and non-cloud services.
“FCIP gives the tools to offer a self-service portal to access all your IT services with single sign on, monitoring tools, backup services, and most importantly the tools needed to integrate disparate apps so they work together as part of a seamless and modern business process,” adds McPherron.
The Value Chain
As economic concerns continue to color the decision-making process for businesses today, the cloud also offers a way for smaller companies to remain competitive and deliver value.
“IT organizations must provide faster access to services for their lines of business, simplify and protect their IT environments, reduce costs, and support innovation by showing how technology can be used to transform the business,” says Bobby Patrick, VP, marketing, HP Cloud. “By shifting to a cloud-based delivery model, companies are increasing their agility, speeding time to market, and improving efficiency to enable a competitive advantage.”
Patrick explained HP’s cloud strategy as one that is looking to “accelerate the adoption of hybrid cloud computing in the enterprise.” They do this via the migration of business-critical traditional IT workloads and the development of new native cloud applications.
“Our HP Helion portfolio of cloud products and services are based on open-source technologies and span infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, SaaS, management solutions, and software and professional support services, providing organizations with the tools they need without fear of vendor lock-in,” explains Patrick.
Other cloud solutions from HP include its Helion Virtual Private Cloud for customers that want infrastructure services without the high cost of owning and managing their own equipment or data center.
With different cloud service offerings, HP knows there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
“It really comes down to an organization’s individual needs. HP believes that to be successful, organizations will need to implement a hybrid delivery strategy that leverages the ideal mix of traditional IT and public, private, and managed clouds,” adds Patrick.
Manish Gupta, CMO, Liaison Technologies, says that this notion of individual need is important. “As the cloud progresses, cloud vendors will realize they can no longer offer standardized, ‘cookie cutter’ solutions without limiting their market opportunities and risking customer loyalty. The challenge for cloud integration providers is that mass customization is not a technology or a sales technique; it is an organizational discipline and therefore a difficult change to make. Moving forward, cloud adoption will be driven by a vendor’s ability to execute mass customization of the cloud integration platform as an alternative to the compromises and fragmented offerings of prior years.”
Big Picture Thinking
The key for companies sitting on either side of the cloud—whether a service provider or a potential cloud customer—is thinking about not only where you are today, but where you’ll want to be tomorrow. This space is about adding value across hybrid computing, from next-generation data center infrastructure to private and public cloud, and about the integration of solutions across a hybrid mix of what this technology can offer.
Simon Aspinall, president, Virtustream, is fairly blunt in his assessment of the future of cloud services saying, “at this point, cloud adoption is a matter of when, not if. The cost and collaboration benefits of the cloud are clear—it enables organizations to work more efficiently with less overhead. It’s no surprise that cloud adoption has surged among small- and medium-sized businesses in recent years. Even more telling is the increasing enterprise adoption rates we’re seeing, which had previously been hindered by concerns about security and compliance.”
A recent Piper Jaffray CIO survey indicated a 44 percent annual growth rate in workload for the public cloud versus less than nine percent growth for on-premise computers. The shift is clearly toward the cloud and businesses will only continue to get more comfortable using off-premise data storage and application assets as time goes on.
“It is important for enterprises to conduct their due diligence. Ask the ‘what-if’ questions and seriously investigate the subscriber contingency plan. Create and follow a repeatable process for safely onboarding