A Geek's Thoughts on Cloud
Jamie Mathy, CTO of Mavidea Technology Group, LLC
It is impossible to be a geek in the business world and
escape the latest news on cloud computing. Every magazine,
newsletter, and website I use to do research for
customers keeps doing their best to sell me on cloud
computing. I'm used to it – we geeks love new technology --
a lot of times far more than our ends users do. Normally
these ideas burn brightly for 6-9 months and then just fade
away, but cloud computing seems to have a fuel that refuses
to die. Cloud computing articles are showing up in trade
magazines for attorneys, accountants, benefits planners, and
manufacturers. Instead of me introducing these new
technologies to our customers, they are asking me about
Why this change
in the adoption cycle? My guess would be that the economic
conditions of the last 24 months have most business owners
looking for any way to cut or curb costs in their business.
Want to guess what cloud computing articles are pitching to
those same owners? You got it – reduced costs. Does cloud
computing reduce costs? Well…sometimes.
That leads to
the bigger question – what is cloud computing? That seems to
be the magic question. No two companies or industry trade
groups seem to be able to come up with the same definition.
I participated in an industry forum for CRN Magazine last
year where 10 CIO / CTOs attempted to address some of the
fundamental questions and concerns surrounding cloud
computing. Every one of us had a different idea of what
cloud computing is.
Of all of the
definitions I have seen, I think
Wikipedia's is the best:
computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared
resources, software, and information are provided to
computers and other devices on demand…"
The premise is
simple – let's break down the definition into pieces.
"Internet-based" – Cloud computing moves the software out of
your office out onto the Internet "cloud". The
software could literally be housed in any datacenter in the
world, although our use will mostly be based out of US
datacenters for speed. All access to the data will be from
an Internet connection – it could be at work, home, a hotel,
or a coffee shop down the street. The promise is as long as
you have Internet access you can get to your data.
resources, software, and information" – Most servers located
on site at small to midsized businesses have an average
utilization of between 5-20%. Do you really need to purchase
new hardware if you are only going to use 15% of it?
computers and other devices on demand" – This is probably
the most exciting part of cloud computing to business
owners. For years companies have purchased software and
hardware to run applications inside their businesses. These
purchases were almost always followed by significant
staffing or labor costs to ensure the successful
installation of the purchases into the company's
infrastructure. And then because of the nature of upgrade
cycles, do it all over again in 4-5 years.
Now with a new
wave of cloud computing applications (email, spam filtering,
CRM, sales management), virtual hosted servers, and online
backup, businesses will be able to pay for some (or all) of
their needs on demand. A lot of times the fee is per user
per month. Just hired a new employee? Click a few buttons to
add the new user to your account. Going in to the busy
season? Fire up another virtual server to handle the extra
processing load. Don't have trained staff to run the new
application? No problem – the cloud provider is going to
provide most of the support you need.
/ accountant is going to love the "on demand" part too.
Instead of a giant capital expense on front of the project,
and then depreciation each year, cloud computing will change
a lot of things over to an ongoing operating expense. I'm
not saying that cloud computing is cheaper, but would you
rather spend $10,000 up front every 4 years or $400 per
month (example numbers) to run the same application? What
else could you do with your money if it wasn't tied up in
Now with all
that being said, cloud computing is not a perfect world.
There are some situations where cloud computing is not a
fit. Not every application or every server will be able to
be moved to the cloud, for a variety of reasons. Many
industry analysts predict that most companies will end up in
a hybrid mode – moving as many servers and applications as
they can into the cloud, but some special items will be
forced into an on-premise solution.
Of course there
is also the situation where you have no Internet access. No
Internet means no access to anything you have residing out
in the cloud. What if the only Internet access you can get
is slow? Cloud computing may not be the solution for you.
I have a good
deal more to say on the subject of cloud computing regarding
security, stability, usability, and disaster recovery. Let's
call this an introduction to cloud computing. This fall
Mavidea is officially unveiling our lineup of cloud
offerings under the brand SIMPLICITY. Look for many more
articles on cloud computing to be posted on the
official Mavidea blog over the next couple of months as
we review the benefits and challenges of using cloud
solutions for email, spam filtering, email encryption,
compliance archiving, virtual servers, and virtual desktops.