My involvement in corporate IT seems to be rapidly moving towards and embracing Cloud technology to assist my clients. The deeper I get involved with Cloud, the more I see a great deal of confusion both by customers who do not understand what cloud is or should be, and by vendors who like to maintain the confusion to maximize their revenues.
A key issue today is vendors who attempt to sell cloud technology to the existing CIO's leveraging the idea that public cloud is a big risk and the customers should create their own private cloud. IBM happens to be one of the biggest vendors of private cloud technology. This is a logical outcropping of C-Level executives asking their CIO to look into Cloud computing. Private Cloud (meaning that your company buys the equipment, installs, and operates it in your own private facilities) is a good way for IT to maintain control over the computer hardware and systems software used to support the companies IT initiatives.
There are some benefits to "private" cloud. If you aggressively adopt cloud based technology, all of your applications move into the cloud and are no longer dependent upon proprietary hardware solutions. Your application development teams or vendors that you purchase software must support the technology you have deployed in your cloud and there are certainly benefits of standardization. In large companies, there are additional benefits using common hardware, software, and infrastructure. Additionally if done right, you eliminate the costs of traditional Disaster Recovery by distributing your applications across multiple "peer level" data centers and balancing work across the data centers giving you DR by default. No longer do you have idle equipment or resources waiting for a disaster to happen!
The downside of this approach is you still have a significant investment in computer hardware, systems software, and human resources to maintain the environment.
A second approach is IaaS which is popular with CIO's where their management team have pushed them to outsource the hardware to a third party vendor. So lets say you contract with IBM who drives all of the computer equipment in IBM data centers that you access via the Internet. Your IT organization is responsible for maintaining the system software deploying applications and supporting the environment. The difference? You don't own the machines.
IaaS (InfraStructure as a Service) can be advantageous for companies with season peak processing periods. You can contract for normal day to day processing levels and have a peak period option that charges you for the resources you use during the peak period and reverts back to normal when the peak period demand subsides. This requires a vendor who has this type of capability as well and the knowledge and infrastructure to support it.
I recognize that these are popular "cloud" solutions, but not my favorite by far. I much prefer the models that let your company focus only on your actual business applications and let the vendor handle all of the hardware, middleware, and infrastructure including security, replication, etc.
More on this soon.