Friday, April 17, 2009

We need Cloud - of services; not of server racks

In this Forbes article, Andy Greenberg quotes McKinsey analyst William Forrest, stating that cloud computing in its present form could turn out costlier for (large) enterprise users. Now my question is what is the ‘present form’ of cloud computing? If your answer is a ‘completely externally hosted I.T infrastructure, provisioned on-demand, charged on a pay-as-you-use basis’, I agree, the benefits are not much beyond SMEs, risk is high as well. But if it’s about ‘Provisioning and consuming I.T capabilities as shared, distributed, on-demand services spread across a cloud of computing infrastructure that include external and internal environments’, I would say the result will be very positive.

Firstly I think we should get away with this ‘Amazon and Amazon only’ mindset when talking about cloud computing. Cloud is a ‘cloud of IT capabilities’ and not a ‘cloud of server racks’ IMO. Now these I.T capabilities could come from your internal shared services environments, it could come from the externally hosted high capacity systems or it could come from externally hosted shared business services. I think then only it forms a true ‘cloud’.

So even if you are a cautious enterprise user who would not want to completely trust an external vendor to take care of your information technology needs and still want to manage it all in a cost effective way, I say a hybrid cloud approach sure will help you. Firstly, by having internal, shared services, you have achieved a level of normalization and streamlining of your I.T environments (Let me not use SOA here). Secondly by using external environments for high intensity processing jobs (on which I’ve written on multiple occasions here), you get rid of a large cost factor. Thirdly, by consuming relevant external business services (Yes, from SaaS providers), you further reduce investment and maintenance requirements.

Now I’m no MBA to tell you what are your ‘ROI’ gains by having such an approach, all I can say is if you smartly plan, architect and re-arrange your I.T environments leveraging both internal and external computing capabilities, that becomes your cloud, which becomes your cost effective I.T that we always talk about.

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