Cloud computing

More than vapor: The IT foundation to make cloud work

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When someone says cloud, what do you think of? Fluffy-looking things in the sky? Something that stores photos or music out there somewhere? Maybe, it’s even a virtual instance of Linux on an x86 box?

These are all common notions of cloud, but as the cloud becomes more pervasive we should think about it in different terms. The cloud isn’t just a remote place for storing files or running applications. The cloud is a collection of systems that work together to provide the best way for building applications and delivering services to customers in a digital environment.

Sure, those files with your music and the Linux instance are part of the cloud. But the cloud should also take advantage of assets that businesses have been investing in and relying on for years.

This new way of approaching cloud will require the connecting of systems in new ways. It will require the usage of common frameworks for accessing data and the enablement of collaborations between applications, no matter where they reside. It will require new agile development practices for creating and deploying applications, regardless of the platform.

Technology leaders must invest to enable this broader concept of cloud so businesses can take advantage of existing on-premises systems and the public cloud–the emerging model of hybrid cloud. For example, this year IBM released API Connect, making it easier to create and securely manage links between applications on different systems using application program interfaces (APIs).

Last year, IBM also announced a major commitment to Apache Spark, supported by IBM Power Systems and IBM z Systems. This makes it easier to access data where it resides for analytics and takes advantage of collaborative innovations of the open-source community behind Spark.

Creating and using this broader system for cloud requires a new way of thinking, but it will be faster and less costly than rewriting billions of lines of existing code, offloading untold amounts of data and reconfiguring entire networks. It also will be less risky, reducing the chance of introducing errors through new code and reconfigurations.

Let’s take the mainframe as one example. The IBM z Systems mainframe has become the IT backbone of global enterprise, serving as the core transaction system for major banks, insurers, retailers and transport companies. The mainframe handles 68 percent of all IT workloads, according to a Solitaire Interglobal report.

With the move to the cloud, businesses shouldn’t abandon their investments in mainframe applications. These applications run with a level of speed, security and reliability that is difficult to match. Instead, companies should use new technologies to take full advantage of existing assets.

A bank’s loan-processing application, for example, can continue running on the mainframe, but API Connect could be used to link that application to applications from business partners such as automotive websites that reside in the cloud. This could allow integration of the bank’s loan application into the online car-shopping experience, opening a new revenue channel without a massive rewrite of code.

Companies that take this new approach to employ and exploit all of their assets will separate themselves from their competitors. They’ll choose the platform that works best for their specific needs, knowing it can be used across their network and with outside partners.

Ultimately, this approach to cloud will change the way IT is viewed. Instead of being seen as a necessary cost center, IT will become a means of creating and delivering new, differentiated services. IT will become a new avenue of profit. And wouldn’t that be a nice thought to have when someone says cloud?

Check out this e-book, “Cloud Your Way,” to find out how other companies are making the most of their assets in a hybrid cloud model.

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