Defining Cloud & the Imminent Explosion of IaaS
While there are plenty of acronyms and an unlimited number of verticals related to the very complex IT industry and the environments that surround it, we hardly find it surprising that even a simple concept like cloud computing brings its own collection new acronyms for us to learn and understand. Thanks to the likes of Apple, the benefits of Public, Private, and Hybrid forms of “the Cloud are now widely understood by consumers. However, understanding the cloud as an enterprise solution can prove difficult. As SaaS apps go beyond their tipping point and the IaaS bubble gets ready to burst, I created a quick description of the different enterprise cloud solutions available to enterprises today. This also sheds some light on why all eyes are on adopting a hybrid approach with IaaS.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to the ability for a consumer to use on-demand software that is provided by the service provider via a thin client device e.g. a web browser over the Internet. With SaaS, the consumer has no management or control over the infrastructure. This means they cannot alter the storage, servers, network, or operating systems. What’s more, they have no control over the application’s capabilities. This market is fairly mature. For example, if you want to procure Salesforce.com from a tracking and sales perspective, it’s a pretty straight forward purchase. The tool will work right away and you can buy licenses and be up and running in days (sometimes hours). This type of cloud service provides a myriad of benefits.
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is when the consumer does not deal with the infrastructure; instead the responsibility of the equipment is outsourced to the Service Provider. While SaaS is easy, IaaS is a lot harder to understand and execute. In a SaaS model, the Service Provider not only owns the equipment, but is also responsible for running and maintaining it while the consumer is charged on a ‘pay as you use’ basis. IaaS can be thought of as the raw cloud computing capability, which might not seem exciting – but it’s a hot topic right now. IaaS is completely transformative for businesses as it impacts how they can move existing apps into the cloud space. It’s not just about using Salesforce; it’s about taking a company’s core and mission critical applications and putting them into the cloud. However, this can’t happen exclusively. Instead, it has to happen in a hybrid fashion where enterprises will need to leverage existing datacenters and databases – things that cannot be moved into the cloud.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) allows consumers to have applications deployed without the burden and cost of buying and managing the hardware and software. These are either consumer created or acquired web applications or services that are entirely accessible from the Internet. The benefit of this cloud model is that it offers a quick time-to-market and immediately facilitates business requirements such as application design, development, and testing at a fraction of the normal cost.
- Communications as a Service (CaaS) refers to the ability to utilize enterprise level VoIP, VPNs, PBX, and Unified Communications without the costly investment of purchasing, hosting, and managing the infrastructure. Think IM, email, phones, etc. This is another SaaS model that presents some challenges for customers but also yields a great deal of benefits. For example, your communication with a colleague may start with an email exchange and then move to a conference call and then switch to video conferencing. Another participant might then join via tablet and immediately we witness the business environment growing more complicated. In order to simplify the environment, companies need to better collaborate and understand these processes. In this scenario, “The Cloud” doesn’t reduce costs but it enables improved communications. If costs come down as a result, it’s a bonus. We will see the true value of the cloud in the form of enablement.
As you can see, it’s important to understand these different cloud environments. We should take notice of each environment’s unique benefits and learn how to prepare ourselves for the explosion that is about to happen with IaaS. As mentioned above, it’s a huge market and can be completely transformative for the enterprise. It is also where enterprises are having the most challenges. As companies grapple with leaving their information on the private network to play it safe and alleviate security risk, there is a devil on the other shoulder urging a move to the cloud to take advantage of easier information management.
However, companies are wary of the cloud. No one wants to be the next Home Depot or Target and be in the press for a breach of sensitive information and data. But the reality is that it’s going to happen and the more enterprises expose themselves to these technologies, the more vulnerable they become. You can, however, limit this vulnerability by making this information accessible only through a private network; this is where the hybrid approach comes into view. It’s a lot harder to gain access to a private corporate network than an online network. As a result, some of the key players like Verizon, AT&T, BT, etc. are providing their connectivity to these cloud providers and sending their cost environment right to the cloud. New solutions are emerging as data center providers and companies like Equinix are now providing cloud exchanges using network capability. As a result, Intel has developed a chip-level secure solution that allows security down to the virtual computer/server level. And, this is where the explosion is happening.
At the end of the day, the overall data center equipment market, which is a combination of all these resources, is what is making up the $2 trillion in infrastructure. There’s just no way businesses will move this amount of equipment out of this environment and into a more efficient, cheaper cloud environment or their revenue streams would be eradicated overnight. The notion is that the $200 billion cloud market would connect to this $2 trillion in assets and the official hybrid model would be formed.
Understanding the many options for cloud models is the first step, especially with the explosion of IaaS on the immediate horizon. The next step is knowing how to use them to the enterprise’s advantage. By truly understanding the cloud from an enterprise perspective, businesses can begin to take advantage of it (while ensuring security) to enable better business processes.