Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don't try to reinvent it, just use what's there!

It keeps coming up over and over again. Why use Cloud Computing? This is usually followed with, "What is Cloud Computing?" Anybody following this blog will probably know that my definition is:

The Cloud = lower costs + more flexibility + more automation + better service

But what does this actually mean?

I'm fed up with the way the technology industry keeps over-complicating things
. IT underpins almost every business but often gets in the way of doing business. This is where the Cloud can come in.

Cloud computing principles can (over time) help companies change the cost / complexity curve. Move more and more applications, infrastructure, and even their support out of their company and into the Cloud. This can free up precious time, effort and budgets to concentrate on the real job of running their business. Plus, service levels in the Cloud are probably better than what you can achieve in-house.

It really comes down to focus. Figure out what you are good at and focus all your effort on that and let others (who are better at it than you) focus on all the other peripheral stuff. There are some real business benefits to be gained using what is available today and will only get better as the technology and services improve over time.

In my own business (ZeroTouch IT Ltd) we use a whole range of Cloud based services to drive down costs, improve efficiency and generally to keep the communication flowing across our company. We also use the Cloud as a key part of the services we provide to our clients - but that's for another post.

Here's a list of some of the Cloud based services we use to help run ZeroTouch:

So many companies get caught up trying to either reinvent things (usually because they suffer from Not Invented Here syndrome) or trying to complicate their world by insisting on customising everything. I take a different view. Use what's there! Especially the free (mostly ad supported) stuff.

If you subsequently need a higher level of service not provided by free (or low cost) services then upgrade to those premium services later. But don't hold up the benefits your business can realise today because you can't make a decision while you wait for perfect information to come along. You'll never have perfect information!

Make your decision, move on, adapt later.

The Cloud makes this possible.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Private and Public Clouds

Last year I wrote a post about emerging Cloud utilities and I discussed some scenarios briefly where the pure "everything in the cloud" model is unlikely for many companies in the next decade or two. Will everything move to the Cloud? Doubt it.

As many IT professionals already know, the integration challenge is already tough enough for applications hosted inside organisations. This new SaaS model just adds to the complexity. Granted, SaaS or Cloud solutions also create huge advantages but the industry needs to seriously consider this integration challenge.

Integration is not just about integrating web based applications using something like OpenID but also considering hybrid models where some solutions will be provided using SaaS and others will still be hosted internally.

It seems Cisco is also thinking about this hybrid world and the integration challenges associated with it. Private Clouds are Real - Internetworking for the Cloud.

Cloud computing architectures, whether public or private, or frankly ‘virtually private’ (private cloud extending into public infrastructure with enterprise control and trust established) will need a set of networking systems and architectures.
...Cloud Internetworking is about enabling the Inter-Cloud, the federation of cloud computing systems between enterprise and provider and one provider to the next. Workload becomes portable, and the Cloud Internetwork embraces this portability and ensures that the elements of trust and control don’t break or disappear with the advent of mobile workloads. Additionally, the Cloud Internetwork ensures that as workloads move they are still reachable via the most efficient path.

Back in December I was musing about the network risk associated with Cloud computing services. These risks haven't changed and they will have to be addressed by both the providers and the customers.

...the risk to the provided SaaS service is now in the network. If connectivity to the network is lost (from any node), those at that node have no service. I know this is stating the obvious but the point here is the types of services being provided - they're starting to become more mission critical. This means the accessibility requirements go up. It's not good enough for an organisation to have a five 9's up time from the SaaS provider if they can't access it.

For critical services the configuration of the network at each node now needs to be considered.

Finally, I ask the question at the start of this piece "will everything move to the Cloud?". I doubt it. There are many reasons why I think this but one of the most compelling is that it doesn't make sense for some applications to run entirely in the Cloud.

I still think that some of the analyst commentary and services being provided are similar to those we had around the .com boom. At that time, everything was being turned into a .com, even when it made absolutely no sense. I fear the same is happening with Cloud computing. Some services don't make sense in the Cloud, or at least the way they are currently being considered.

I think it makes total sense for documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc (i.e. the data) to be stored out in the Cloud securely. I'm not as convinced that running all the apps themselves in the Cloud is such a good idea. A hybrid model will be best in some cases - even though this will be a more complicated service to create.

I talk about this more here.

I'll leave you with this quote by Douglas Gourlay from Cisco:

...the Cloud Internetwork ensures that enterprises have choices, providers have markets, and infrastructure interoperates.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Microsoft My Phone Cloud Service

Microsoft have announced a new and potentially very interesting Cloud based application for syncronising critical information like contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, text messages, photos, video, etc on a user’s mobile phone to a password protected Web site.

Read this commentary from InformationWeek.

Here's the link to Microsoft's My Phone site.

These are the types of services the Internet is perfect for delivering and if Microsoft crack the usability side of things it could be a winner. It's also an interesting way for Microsoft to claim some critical Internet services landscape without having to compete directly with Google.



Monday, February 2, 2009

IT needs to get over its Cloud denial

Great post from William Hurley at InfoWorld:
"Cloud computing could bring IT departments closer to our business, but it's more likely to drive us further apart"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Economic Crisis in Ireland

I'm not an Economist but here's some really good commentary on the economic crisis effecting the country from one of Ireland's best known Economists (David McWilliams).
  1. Time for us to start singing from a different hymn sheet
  2. A mortgage plan that will save a whole generation
  3. Fighting for our economic reputation
If you have any interest in Ireland and its Economic future you should read these articles. You should probably pass them along to others too.

This crisis is too serious (with the very real potential of getting significantly worse) for the Government to keep its head in the sand and leaving the country rudderless. The powers-that-be would be well advised to listen to people like McWilliams and actually do something that will protect the country's future for the next generation.