Is cloud computing the answer?

* Can cloud computing address the challenges of fitting various vendor offerings together into a synergistic system?

In recent newsletters we began to address the challenge of fitting the various vendor offerings (e.g., LAN switches, WAN services, virtualized servers, virtualized desktops, SOA based applications, unified communications, etc.) together into a synergistic system. In this newsletter we will begin to look at whether or not cloud computing is the answer to that challenge.

As we mentioned in the last two newsletter, Dennis Hollarn of Erie Insurance is one of our readers who raised the possibility that cloud computing vendors can provide the answer to this challenge. He wrote, “Do the cloud computing vendors/companies (i.e., Google, Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft Azure) have this problem already figured out? I sometimes wonder where the cloud computing environments get their designs. It appears too that they use a lot of open-source systems, but there are also some commercial products such as Microsoft Azure. Another observation I have made in researching this topic is that cloud computing does not necessarily have to be 'outside' the organization, that some companies are starting to build their own cloud computing systems internally. Lastly, many think of cloud computing as highly available, grid based, open-source systems that are very economical, efficient, scalable and cost-effective. My personal opinion is companies may need to start their own R&D in this area and experiment with these ‘cloud computing’ technologies in-house.”

There is no doubt that some IT organizations are looking at utilizing public cloud computing services while others are analyzing the possibility of implementing cloud computing services themselves. The latter option being referred to as a private cloud. We will come back to the topic of public, private and hybrid clouds in a future newsletter.

It is important to realize that cloud computing is not fundamentally new. Cloud computing draws on numerous other technologies including cluster computing, SaaS, Web 2.0, SOA, Web services. It also draws on management software that automates provisioning and orchestration of virtualized IT environments. Like so many new technologies and ways of delivering IT services, the potential advantages of cloud computing are widely discussed. What is not discussed anywhere near as much is what has to be in place for cloud computing to be effective. Put another way, what questions should an IT organization ask cloud computing vendors in order to determine whether or not the vendors’ services can provide the promised benefits?

That is a big question that we will come back to in future newsletters. In the meantime, we would like to hear from you. What is your opinion of cloud computing? More hype? Great value today? Great promise, but still to early for real results?

For further discussion of Cloud Computing see Jim's blog.

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