• 06/19/2014
    8:00 AM
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Cloud: Ready To Burst

Infrastructure-as-a-service will come on strong in the next few years, especially in the areas of disaster recovery, high availability, new product development, and increased capacity and compatibility.

A few weeks ago, I happened across a television commercial on "Microsoft Cloud." My first reaction was to shout out, "That's not a thing!" To this, my wife calmly replied that, if it wasn't a thing, they wouldn't have spent money on the commercial. Still, it stuck in my mind a bit, because "cloud" isn't a tangible item, and most television commercials are focused on tangible things.

The use of the term "cloud" has doubled in the past three years, so it's not surprising to find it popping up everywhere (including television commercials). "Cloud" is an umbrella term that brings together a group of service models that include the following.

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS): This has been around for decades; things like Yahoo Mail and are examples of SaaS.
  • Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): Examples of PaaS include the Google App Engine,, and Amazon RDS.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): Hosting providers such as Amazon, Rackspace, and Microsoft are examples of IaaS.

Of the three cloud service models, it’s IaaS that large organizations have most slowly moved to adopt. There are many reasons why this is the case. For example, large financial services corporations, healthcare organizations, and government entities must adhere to strict regulations. The idea of having infrastructure hosted by a third party raises concerns regarding security, privacy, reliability, and service-level agreements.

But the idea of outsourcing your infrastructure is not new. I've seen companies outsource their entire IT department by contracting with companies like IBM to come in and manage their systems. Chances are you know someone who works in IT and has worked for three companies but never left their cubicle.

Though the idea of treating IT as a resource that can be outsourced is familiar, the apprehension to truly leverage the cloud still exists. Yes, some of the apprehension is a result of antiquated industry regulations that have yet to be updated for the 21st century. But that will change eventually. And when the regulations change, so will the way those industries view IaaS.

That's why I believe IaaS is ready to explode over the next three to five years. The areas where I see IaaS having the biggest and most immediate impact include the following.

  • Disaster recovery (DR): Right now, companies typically take daily tape backups of their servers and ship them to offsite storage facilities for DR purposes. The costs associated with this process are staggering. When you go to an IaaS model, the DR is factored into the subscription price.
  • High availability (HA): Companies are deploying duplicate hardware to secondary locations to maintain business continuity should disaster strike. With IaaS, you often won't need to purchase the additional hardware. Services like Microsoft Azure provide HA abilities by default.
  • New product development: You can spin servers up or down as your developers need them, allowing you to control costs and free up space in your datacenter. Developers and server admins can work together to create configurations that are much more flexible than traditional servers.
  • Capacity: Once you start going to IaaS, you will find it frees up your staff to focus on other things, like delivering quality solutions for your business. The cost of running IT gets shifted to the cloud and becomes something you can scale up and down as needed. Maintenance, customization, training, and software fees become things of the past.
  • Compatibility: Using IaaS lets you centralize your information and access it from anywhere, including from other applications. By following Internet and web standards, your company can provide solutions that will allow for easier connections to and from one another.

The first steps needed to embrace IaaS are actually already under way. You can see it in all of the products that use the word "hybrid." The hybrid approach allows companies to dip their toes in the water before going all in on the cloud. These products are being built to help satisfy the current demand. Eventually, though, we will get to the point where even the largest corporations have more servers in the cloud than in their own datacenter.

What's the key message here? It doesn't matter who you are or where you work. If you're not embracing cloud technologies in your daily life, then you are going to be left behind as the world moves forward.



Thomas, what particular regulations do you see as needing to change in order to alleviate IaaS apprehension?

Re: regulations

I think that harmonizing data protection laws to make it easier for organizations to host data in many geo-replicated locations is a necessary first step.

Also, protecting sensitive data via good data protection legislation and good disaster recovery options. 

Thanks for the comment!

Re: regulations

Harmonizing data protection laws in the US seems like it could happen, but are you thinking also internationally? The data protection laws are much more stringent in Europe, as I understand.

Re: regulations

I do my best to think internationally, and yes those laws are much more stringent there. 

In the end I think everyone has to meet in the middle. The Cloud providers need to enhance their services, the laws need to be amended to allow for Cloud services (most of the laws were written without Cloud in mind), and companie need to change to adapt a modern data architecture. 

It won't happen tomorrow, but it will happen. 

Three essential IT outsourcing methods every business should ...

  Some regulations have indeed increased the cost of outsourcing especially ones that are on the cloud, managing an IT function in-house can be time consuming and costs usually spiral out of control. Outsourcing IT to a renowned vendor does offer numerous benefits choosing the right model will reduce costs and also benefit any organization with consistency in staffing and quality of services. I work for McGladrey and you may find this piece on IT Outsourcing useful @ "Three essential IT outsourcing methods every business should know"

Re: Three essential IT outsourcing methods every business sho...

Thanks for the link!

it is a circle
As the author said several times the idea of outsourcing your IT is hardly new and talking about outsourcing to take advantage of cloud still means you are facing the same problems that have existed for years - mainly giving up control. And while some companies may follow the example suggested, I think you will also see companies choosing to establish a private cloud for exactly the same reasons. The cost of hardware these days is nothing compared to the cost of people and their time. The additional cost incurred aligning security and audit controls no matter what regulations you are dealing with when weighted against the cost of establishing the cloud and a second Data Center is something that is only going to tip in favour of the private cloud going forward. there wil always be debate as to which is the better policy and it will in future as it does now depend on the experience and the goals of the organization and the ones making the decisions.