7 benefits of cloud from an enterprise architect point of view

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I was recently asked to provide an overview of the benefits of cloud. In all fairness, it would be difficult for anyone to answer this question and provide a thorough overview as cloud benefits continuously evolve with the addition of new services, uncompromising research and innovations that relentlessly push the boundaries of the underlying technology and architecture.

Additional breakthroughs in horizontal and vertical markets as well as the birth of new ecosystems and development platforms provide the construct behind a continuum of opportunity for businesses to benefit from cloud providers’ enhancements to technology offerings.

To truly appreciate and take advantage of the impact and benefits of cloud computing, I believe that you must also understand that cloud is primarily an extension of IT and your business.

Even though this may be a tall order, I will take this opportunity to introduce you to the benefits of cloud from an enterprise architect perspective and show how it relates to your business.

What are the benefits of cloud computing

1. Cost:

Most of you would agree that it is easier to get operational expenditure (OPEX) approval than capital expenditure (CAPEX), especially related to the following points:

• No hardware or computing resources lingering on balance sheet
• No depreciation
• No need for lengthy justification
• No monthly review of system utilization
• No need to refactor computing resources after project completion
• For the cost of a cappuccino a day, a user can access his own dedicated server

2. Choice

Choice as a benefit shows no boundaries in most cases, and will only be limited by your OPEX budget. You have the ability to choose from an extensive set of services for any business need, including:

Software as a service (SaaS)
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Business Process as a service (BPaaS)

You can also easily have a global reach with the ability to choose the geographical location of your data center, choose your network access (private, hybrid or public) and choose your bandwidth throughput.

3. Scale: Flexibility and elasticity

Holiday online shopping is a great example of the scaling power behind cloud technology, as retailers must prepare for online activities to support well on 1,000 times more consumers connecting to their web sites than during regular months. In other cases, a company may need temporary computing power to track consumer sentiment toward its products. Cloud can provide the following to help meet these needs:

• Elastic web farm to support 1,000 or 10,000 users based on business need
• The ability to move from private to public networks on a whim to test new applications
• The ability to temporarily expand storage to support a marketing campaign or event

4. Speed

One of the key differentiators for a company relates to its ability to be first to market, such differentiators correlate to speed of execution for which I provide a few examples below:

• Virtual resources adapt more easily to business objectives requirements
• Rapid expansion of bandwidth speed as needed
• Access to solid-state drive (SSD) technology on-demand enhances application speed
• No red tape—cloud effortlessly adapts to technology landscape changes

5. Integration

I foresee that within five years, the major cloud providers will create an interconnected Internet super highway on which data will travel, communicate and collaborate interactively in the delivery of services that cannot be fathomed today. Cloud will help to enable this by:

• Providing countless application programming interfaces (APIs) for the consumption of third party services
• Think of OData, JSON, JSONP, XML for API data access
• Providing flexible access to traditional SQL or NoSQL databases
• Providing analytic platforms for countless business needs

6. Audit and compliance

This is my personal favorite. As an IT practitioner, I can validate that audit and compliance is probably one of the biggest burdens on any IT organization. Fortunately, cloud can help in the following ways:

• Cloud vendors’ service level agreements (SLAs) ensure that all audits and compliance activities are logged, monitored and audited to your satisfaction
• Regardless of business security requirements, most cloud vendors abide to industry standards to support Sarbanes & Oxley, ISO2001, ITIL, SAE116, SaS Type I & II, HIPAA, PCI and more
• Cloud providers are regularly audited by third party organizations to ensure that security standards are met

(Related: Is cloud computing secure?)

7. Business Continuity Planning (BCP)

BCP truly showcases one of the many benefits of cloud and how it can serve as an extension of IT and your business. BCP enables:

• Disaster recovery with cold or hot backup
• Disaster recovery with high-failover or high-redundancy
• Data deduplication and backup
• Testing and verification of recovery procedures

As you can see, the benefits of cloud are numerous, varied and have the potential to fulfill countless business objectives and scenarios. Let’s connect on Twitter @thinkahead and continue the discussion. In the interim, please head to SoftLayer (one of my favorite cloud providers) and test their offering and see how SoftLayer can help your business.

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