The journey of the public cloud from the sky to the earth

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Several years ago, we saw what was then a breakthrough IT delivery model coming called outsourcing. The message then was: “Even if IT is core to your business, it is not your core business. IT costs you a lot of money and headaches. So, gain peace of mind and save money by letting outsourcing companies manage and operate your IT. This way you can concentrate on your business.”

Although it took some time and a relevant change in the mindset of the IT staff, many companies decided to move their IT infrastructure out of their data centers. However, in this delivery model, even if the service provider shares the management tools and the operations and support teams among various customers, the managed infrastructure is mostly dedicated to each customer.

In parallel, a similar trend was seen at the consumer level. The message here was: “You just want to communicate with your family and friends, store and share your photos and videos, and occasionally produce some documents. Why should you care about storage or software licenses, when you can easily get access to the services you need?” And here came Hotmail, Gmail, Flickr, and then Facebook, and Google apps, and many others.

Looking at how well received the new consumer paradigm was, IT service providers started to think about why not to take outsourcing a step forward and make this consumer model also available to the enterprises. And, after several months of gestation, a new era was born. An era in which you may not have to step into a data center anymore, in which the cloud can provide you with the resources you need when you need them and you pay for only what you use.

“Easy to order, fast provisioning, elasticity, flexibility, and at a lower cost. Sounds good, I have to try it.”

An exploratory usage of the cloud began, and along with it, the journey of the cloud from the sky to the earth. These are some of the stops of this journey that are making the cloud look less and less indistinct.

Stop 1: The cloud is everywhere and nowhere.
“Mmm, but where is my data?” In many countries, data privacy and industry regulations pose limitations to the location of data. As a consequence, some of the initially blurred cloud data centers are now clearly spotted on the map.

Stop 2: Just click here and you will get a new virtual server.
“Well, but what hardware are you using?” To size the cloud infrastructure required to run their applications, customers need to know the performance of the cloud servers and storage. Thus, providers of infrastructure as a service have to inform about the performance of their storage and their virtual CPU with reference to a certain processor type, in a similar way as Amazon does with the ECU (EC2 Compute Unit).

Stop 3: Select the software you need from the catalog.
“That’s great, but I have already bought many licenses, can I use them on the cloud?” Certainly, cloud provides a new business model for software vendors, but companies still have to leverage the investments already made and therefore software vendors are defining licensing models that allow companies to use their existing licenses on the cloud. IBM Passport Advantage Licensing for IBM SmartCloud Enterprise and for Amazon Cloud or Microsoft’s License Mobility are examples.

Stop 4: Cloud data centers are secure.
“Ok, but what security measures are implemented in the cloud data centers?” Customers demand clarity on the specific security measures implemented by the service provider regarding access to the data center and the virtual machines, data protection, and other aspects, to make sure that they comply with security standards, requirements, and regulations. Likewise, it is important to understand the security measures regarding the cloud servers that are under the responsibility of the customer.

Stop 5: You can easily deploy data center infrastructure in minutes.
“Yes, but how do I integrate with the applications that will remain in my data center?” As a first step, some companies have moved “self-contained” applications to the cloud, but as maturity evolves, service providers are starting to address the requirement of integrating on-premise servers with cloud servers. Solutions like Azure Connect or IBM Cast Iron software address this challenge.

The journey has not finished, but the destination is clear, the earth.

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