Cloud computing's not-so-secret mission

IT-as-a-Service is the real game changer in cloud computing.

business cloud services flowchart
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There is no denying that the cloud and cloud computing have changed the way many of us are doing business. You only had to attend last week’s sold out AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas to see the cloud out in force.

But as the cloud matures, we are seeing another layer of cloud computing that promises to shake the foundation of our IT infrastructure to its core – the advent of IT-as-a-Service, which will be perhaps the cloud’s highest calling.

Initially, many thought of the cloud as the successor to the web host. The next-gen data center. As someone who first became involved in web hosting in 1995 or so, I will admit that I thought that as well. The cloud is a great place to keep your web infrastructure, and it is even great to keep your apps and app infrastructure.

However, the cloud is also a great place to which you can move your entire IT infrastructure as well. It took a little longer than moving websites or even apps to the cloud, but IT in the cloud has arrived.

Here are three solid examples of what I mean by this:

  1. Rackspace Cloud Office – While Microsoft offers its business productivity suite as a service already, Rackspace is rolling out its own office, which includes more back-office functionality. Included is enterprise-class mail hosting, including Microsoft Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint. Also part of the Cloud Office offering is Jungle Disc backup and data protection. While all of these components were previously available individually, Rackspace has now bundled them into a single package wrapping it with its renowned fanatical support. I spoke to the Rackspace folks about Cloud Office and you can expect to see more components and functionality added in the not-too-distant future. Rackspace is also moving into more consulting with this offering. The company is a managed services provider and will offer managed IT more and more. It’s also a leader in DevOps in the cloud as well. This isn’t Rackspace the web hosting company; this is Rackspace the managed cloud and IT provider we are talking about.
  1. AWS Directory Service – This new managed service from Amazon was announced shortly before re:Invent. Amazon is offering two flavors of this new service. One connects and leverages your existing AD on premises. The other is to set up a standalone directory in the cloud. From what I understand, the service is based on Samba and is pretty rudimentary. But that is the Amazon way. It will roll out an offering, usually based on some open source tools, and look for vendors and partners to improve upon it. In the meantime, Amazon has planted the flag in the ground around the important subject of user access control and permission. One of the last bastions of on-premises IT infrastructure, directory, whether AD or LDAP, is moving to the cloud as a service. Incidentally, Microsoft is also offering an AD-as-a-Service offering on its Azure platform as well.
  1. JumpCloud DaaS – As I mentioned, oftentimes a partner or third party will offer a more full-featured version of AWS’s basic service. That is exactly the case with JumpCloud’s own directory as a service offering. Touted as the "one directory to rule them all," Jumpcloud offers both AD and LDAP functionality. Its directory works on your cloud infrastructure, on-premises network, and even on end points. The company welcomed the AWS offering as it validates the market for them. Company CEO Rajat Bhargava thinks there is a natural upgrade path for AWS users who try the AWS offering and then upgrade to the more full-featured JumpCloud service. For those who think the AWS service is enough, Bhargava again welcomes them, as their modest needs don’t represent the market that JumpCloud is after.

All three of these examples show that the cloud is becoming the home of our IT infrastructure. It is not just our CRM and stuff like that, it is the very heart of our IT. We may be finally coming to the time when our on-premises IT maybe little more than a router and a few switches (built on general purpose PCs using software defined networking).

The cloud has moved beyond web hosting and apps to truly being the home of our IT. Mission accomplished.

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