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Cloud computing: It can work for you

The components such as virtualization and the concept of services-based software were, and remain, the building blocks of cloud computing. “VMWare blazed the physical server virtualization trail in the enterprise, enabling basic on-demand computing from the infrastructure viewpoint,” Brevoort says, “and Amazon pioneered true utility or usage-based computing.” What has changed in the last year or two is the ability to automate those services and make them more business user friendly.

The demand for more flexibility comes in large part from the need to deal with unpredictable surges in Internet traffic. “We call it ‘the Oprah effect,’” says Brevoort. “Surges in traffic based on sometimes unpredictable external events can overwhelm companies’ traditional fixed capacity computing resources, so they move some applications to a cloud model.”  Brevoort cites that hybrid approach as a way a company can “dip its toe in the water” to try out the cloud with non-mission critical applications. “For example,” he says, “we deployed a client’s Facebook application in the cloud to relieve the pressure on its own network and be more responsive in the event of heavy traffic.”

Legacy transition

A final driver for transitioning to the cloud is the need to modernize legacy applications. According to a report on research commissioned by Hewlett-Packard, nearly 60 percent of respondents indicated that they are using legacy applications that have been running for more than eight years. Of those, more than 10 percent are more than 16 years old. The resources required to maintain those applications are negatively impacting the ability of IT staff to deliver new services quickly. A move to the cloud is one option for migrating those applications into a new environment.

The cloud’s immediacy is a major incentive for any transition, whether legacy or new application, according to Jennifer Bernas, worldwide cloud solutions manager at HP. “The world is instant and your enterprise must be also,” she says. “The best way to get ready is to take the initial steps such as virtualizing, because operating in the cloud requires a company to have its resources organized in a certain way. For companies that opt to move forward, the next steps would be to improve life cycle service management and get the configuration piece automated.”

HP’s CloudStart is an integrated solution designed for standing up a private cloud in a large enterprise within a month. Its CloudMaps software provides pre-integrated templates for Exchange, SAP and Oracle, reducing time to deliver the application. The Cloud Service Automation is a software offering that works across a heterogeneous environment, managing public and private clouds as well as traditional IT resources.

Cloud computing is still in the early stages, and although it holds a lot of promise, some caution is in order. “Although cloud vendors say no new infrastructure is needed, most organizations other than startups already have an infrastructure,” says Jarrod Gingras, analyst at The Real Story Group. The same holds true for applications.

“Companies may find it beneficial in the long run to transition to applications in the cloud,” Gingras adds, “but they already have applications that they paid for.” And although the resources needed to manage cloud computing may be less than for traditional IT, they do not disappear entirely. “In the near term, a good strategy is to get up to speed on the technology and then start experimenting to see what works for your organization,” Gingras says.

Big Blue’s CloudBurst

CloudBurst, the cloud platform from IBM, combines its hardware, software and professional services for a private cloud product that incorporates best of breed using its System x, recently announced Power platform, as well as IBM Service Delivery Manager software and IBM Quickstart Services.

“The value proposition of CloudBurst is to be up and running quickly in a private cloud environment,” says Daniel Albano, global offering manager for private cloud services at IBM.

The IT staff at most companies is already stretched thin and being asked to do more with less. At the same time, demand is increasing for greater agility while maintaining delivery of high-quality services. “In a traditional shop,” Albano says, “the IT staff needs to pull together resources and deploy them one project at a time. These resources can’t be leveraged by other divisions, often leaving them underutilized.”

Many companies have achieved efficiencies by consolidating and virtualizing, and the next step is to get more value by automating the process. “IBM focuses its capability on service management and the use of a self-service user interface,” Albano explains. “This can happen very quickly in a cloud environment, in contrast to the lengthy process that is usually required in a traditional IT department. It’s usually a matter of minutes for self-service provisioning additional services with the cloud, rather than weeks or months as in a non-cloud environment.”

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