The pros and cons of cloud computing

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Every place you look, you read about cloud computing. It’s coming. It’s here. You need it. If you don’t take advantage of it, you could be left behind.

Some folks believe it’s the future. They point to the explosion of mobile computing as a catalyst for cloud computing. They talk about the growth of born on the cloud developers and applications.

Others look at it as part of the information technology circle of life—a fad that will eventually go away. They point out what they perceive as potential performance issues as well as concerns with the security of a shared infrastructure.

Is the hype valid? Or is cloud computing simply another fad that will die out in another year or so?

As I was thinking about this, I thought it would be useful to put together my view of the pros and cons of cloud computing.

The benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing allows you to focus more on your business and not on managing data centers.

Managing data centers is not the core focus of most businesses. Using cloud computing frees IT to focus on developing applications that have business value and not on managing the data center.

By leveraging the elastic capabilities of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), your IT infrastructure can grow to support increased demand.

You can develop new applications faster.

By leveraging platform as a service (PaaS), your company will be able to imagine a product or new application, provision the infrastructure and develop the new application much quicker than they ever have been able to do in the past.

Leveraging your cloud provider’s API can help you automate many of your operational tasks.

Application programming interfaces (API) provided by the cloud provider are an important part of moving to a DevOps model. The APIs can be used to automate provisioning, monitoring and scaling operations. Using your cloud provider’s API, you can access most, if not all, of the functionality available on your console. SoftLayer, an IBM company, states that the API is the basis for everything done within their environment. The API methods are developed first and then used to build out required functionality in the portal.

Cloud computing is scalable.

By leveraging infrastructure as a service (IaaS), you can quickly build out new infrastructure to support new applications. Assuming your application is architected appropriately, as the load on your application grows you can scale horizontally by provisioning new servers. If you need to increase the size of your servers to support loads that cannot scale horizontally, you can provision larger servers to support the increased demands.

Financially, cloud computing makes a lot of sense.

Renting your infrastructure can make good financial sense. The pay as you go (PAYG) model is especially attractive to the limited cash flow of small and startup businesses.

No capital procurement is needed. You can account for your computing expenses as operational expenses. Additionally, if your infrastructure ages, you no longer need to procure new hardware to replace it. You can simply provision new servers to replace the aging hardware.

Cloud computing allows you to expand your global presence.

Cloud computing allows you to quickly expand your global presence. SoftLayer has cloud data centers and points of presence (POPs) located across the globe. Each of these data centers is connected through high speed fiber allowing you to coordinate your global infrastructure.

(Related: Seven benefits of cloud from an enterprise architect point of view)

The downside of cloud computing

Performance on shared infrastructure can be inconsistent.

It’s a given that when you share infrastructure with others, you might be impacted by noisy neighbors. Performance on shared infrastructure can be inconsistent. Within SoftLayer, you do have options to mitigate this. SoftLayer allows you to provision private cloud servers or dedicated bare metal servers as a means of mitigating performance concerns.

People believe that cloud infrastructure is not secure.

Your cloud infrastructure is only as secure as you make it. SoftLayer offers industry standard firewalls, network gateways, antivirus and compliance scanning capabilities to help you secure your solutions. Businesses are looking to bring more workloads to the cloud, including those workloads that may be regulated including any application that manages personal identifying information, financial information or contains healthcare information.

At IBM, we understand these requirements and how to architect solutions that are governed by specific government regulations.

Cloud computing may not be the right fit for all workloads.

Not all workloads are ready for the cloud. Some workloads have very specific performance and security requirements. You need to evaluate your workloads carefully to determine whether they are appropriate for the cloud.

SoftLayer does offer solutions for specific workloads, including high performance computing, big data and regulated workloads including HIPAA

Do you agree with my thoughts on the pros and cons of cloud computing? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @FRBauerle.

APS Cloud Delivery/SaaS Enablement

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