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Enterprise Cloud: IT as a utility – Are we there yet?
by Mick Kahan |

Cloud Computing promises, over the next several years, to reduce the day-to-day operational costs of information and communications technology, improve financial flexibility, and deliver on-demand, scaleable infrastructure, platform, and applications capabilities. In the long term, it may allow computing to be perceived as a utility like electricity supply.

Well, where are we now?Enterprise Cloud

Whether this actually occurs depends upon the implementation of the business and technical strategies of both private and public enterprises in an environment of emerging service-oriented marketplace and global competitiveness.

Nicholas Carr, the American author, has written several books and articles on the relationship between business and information technology, and his contentious article “Does IT matter?”1 certainly engendered significant debate between those proponents of IT who see it as a catalyst for strategic advantage, and those, like Carr, who see IT morphing into something akin to a utility or service, such as electricity and water supply.

Standing here in 2015, it’s worth considering, with the emergence of WEB services, Service Oriented Architecture, the Cloud 2 , and improved business modeling technologies, whether Carr was correct in his 2003 predictions. Note that a key criticism of Carr’s writings, as they relate to the cloud, is a lack of differentiation between infrastructure as a utility and applications as utilities. Today, we talk about the cloud stack, namely Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service 3 (SaaS), and even Business Processes as a Service (BPaaS).

Are we there yet? Let’s look at enterprise-owned data centers 4 first. Carr argued that enterprise-owned data centers will disappear over time, but, in reality, that’s not really likely to happen soon. It is true that Netflix is rewriting its data center business applications to run on Amazon Web Services 5 ; however, in contrast, Intel has a cloud computing strategy based on growing the cloud from the inside out -- an enterprise-owned private cloud that will extend to the public cloud. 6

We could surely have a great MBA-level discussion on the similarities and differences between the business plans of Netflix and Intel, and why they have chosen their particular paths to the cloud. And that discussion is actually happening in many public and private enterprises right now -- do we go private cloud, public cloud, or hybrid? And two of these imply enterprise-owned data centers!

The first step to a private cloud running in the enterprise-owned 7 data center is virtualization of servers, storage, and networking. In the current marketplace, VMware’s recent positive business results, together with Microsoft’s push into x86 virtualization, indicates conversion to IaaS is progressing rapidly! Note that fully implemented IaaS means on-demand self-service, and automation of provisioning, deployment, charge backs, and other system/service management tasks.

What about the status of the other levels of the cloud stack? If we blur the line between SaaS and PaaS (one person’s platform is another person’s software application) it looks like Carr was on the right track, albeit with some reservations.

In a 2009 Thought Leadership Whitepaper “Dispelling the vapor around cloud computing” IBM summarized research findings based upon a survey of over 1,000 IT and line-of-business decision makers around the world. The survey differentiated between specific kinds of workloads, and asked the survey participants their workload preferences for private, public, and hybrid clouds, now, in the future, and never 8.

The results indicated that:

  • Analytics, application streaming, service/help desk, industry-specific applications, and test and development
    environments were most favored for a private cloud.

  • Conferencing, CRM or sales force automation, and business continuity topped the list of preferred public cloud workloads.

And, in general, the survey results showed a definite, overall movement towards cloud computing over the next several years.

In a different vein it’s interesting to observe the emergence of small, Software as a Service providers 9 who position themselves as providing low cost technical and business solutions to small to medium size businesses who don't want to implement their own IT infrastructure and applications.

However, managing IT as a utility will also require governance to ensure service levels, standards and business continuity. From a critical management perspective, Bill Clarke, Intervista’s faculty member and respected Cloud computing/SOA consultant, points out that there is a natural progression from SOA governance to cloud computing governance, and that best practices/lessons-learned from the former can be carried forward to the latter.

To learn more about the important business and information technology issues of cloud architecture, register for Intervista’s upcoming Cloud in the Enterprise 3-day seminar.

1. http://www.scribd.com/doc/14468461/Carr-03-IT-Doesnt-Matter – original article HBR 2003
2. From now on, in this article, a small ‘c’ will be used i.e. cloud
3. i.e. Business and technical applications, and composable components of the former
4. A data center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls and security devices. (Wikipedia)
5. http://www.slideshare.net/adrianco/netflix-on-cloud-combined-slides-for-dev-and-ops
6. IT@Intel Brief  (2010) - Intel Cloud Computing Taxonomy and Ecosystem Analysis
7. The actual business of the enterprise could be, in fact, the provision of  infrastructure services (IaaS) to clients.
8. Have implemented, implementation in the next 12 months, would consider in the next 12 months, would consider in more than 12 months, would not consider
9. http://www.thesmallbusinessweb.com/

© 2015 Intervista Inc.


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