Is your enterprise still dragging its anchor, not taking off in the cloud? Are you still saying that the cloud is fine for tiny startups, but not for large enterprises? Here are five good reasons why the cloud is ready for your enterprise… and why you can’t afford not to use it any longer.
#1: The cloud gives a competitive edge
A recent white paper from CIO magazine listed these benefits of cloud computing:
· Replacing capital expenses with operating expenses
· Reduced hardware costs
· Reduced capacity needs
· Reduced technology risk
· Increased productivity
· Improved user experience
· Reduced environmental impact
Many enterprises find that using the cloud helps them save costs and roll out new apps to employees and customers faster and with less risk. All these benefits mean that any enterprise using the cloud gains a proven competitive edge.
#2: Security is security, in the cloud or anywhere else
The same security issues apply to an enterprise data center or on-premise application as to the cloud. Everyone must be vigilant about security, no matter where their data is stored. Staying out of the cloud will not prevent problems.
“Traditional on-premise systems with local client storage on company laptops are even more vulnerable to attack or other threats than cloud-based systems,” writes one software expert. “Most organizations will actually benefit by leveraging the added security skills and resources which SaaS and cloud computing service providers have.”
For example, many cloud service providers feature SAS 70-certified data centers, meaning their operations have passed an exhaustive security audit. These providers follow best practices learned in hosting hundreds of different companies, giving them a far broader experience than any single enterprise.
From a security standpoint, although the number of data breaches is still growing, their impact seems to have crested. Annual reports compiled by Verizon, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Dutch High Tech Crime Unit show that the number of exposed records fell dramatically in the past three years, from 361 million in 2008 to just 3.8 million in 2010.
[iii] In 2010, partners—such as hosting service providers—accounted for less than 1% of all breaches and less than 1% of all compromised records.
In other words, the good guys are winning the war for data security, in the cloud and everywhere else.
#3: Reliable open source software powers the cloud
The Internet has always run on open source software like HTML, Java, PHP, and the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl). Today, there are even more open source offerings for every layer of the cloud, from data centers to SaaS apps.
On the hardware level, the Open Compute project from Facebook has created lower-cost, lower-energy designs for servers and data centers and placed them in the public domain.
There are many developments in open source software for the cloud:
· Cisco, Dell, NASA, Rackspace and 50+ other organizations have created the cloud OS OpenStack.
[vi] This includes open source software to build scalable data storage, access virtual disk images, and build private and public clouds.
· Cloud Foundry is an open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) for developing and deploying cloud apps with development tools like Java, Ruby on Rails, and MySQL.
· Hundreds of free SaaS apps are available from a vast range of vendors, all the way from tiny startups to Google.
An open source stack from OS through development tools to apps is good news for any budget-conscious CIO, since it means lower costs and no vendor lock-in at any layer.
What’s more, any necessary fixes tend to arrive faster for open source. A recent survey by Accenture of 300 executives from large enterprises showed that 76% count “quality” as the key benefit of open source code, while over 70% agree that open source is more secure and reliable.
#4: Moving to the cloud isn’t all or nothing
Fortunately, no one has to bet the company on moving to the cloud. Most CIOs do this in small steps, learning as they go.
One approach is to segment a company’s portfolio of applications into three groups:
· Those that make sense to move to the cloud now
· Those you can leave for later
· Core apps you prefer to run in-house for the foreseeable future
This “hybrid” approach enables an enterprise to move less critical apps to the cloud, while keeping sensitive business functions on premises. E-mail, CRM, and storage/backup are the most popular apps running in the cloud,
[ix] as well as customer-facing websites and portals.
This strategy has other advantages. When older servers reach end of life, they can be retired and their workload moved to the cloud instead of buying new hardware to replace them. New mobile or collaborative apps designed for remote access can be rolled out in the cloud from day one.
In this way, a CIO can use the cloud to complement and extend their existing infrastructure rather than replace it overnight.
#5: The cloud elevates the role of IT
In 2010, a worldwide survey from Gartner showed that the average IT department spends 67% of its budget on maintenance and only 33% building new systems to grow and transform the enterprise.
[x] Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what C-level executives want.
“Business leaders reveal an insatiable desire to make their processes leaner, faster, and more agile and they expect to use cloud business services to do it,” concluded a recent global survey of 1,050 executives done by the London School of Economics.
These executives want IT to be more nimble, to cut lag times between conception and delivery, and to do more with less. To be effective, a CIO needs to do more than simply “keep the lights on.”
Instead, a CIO needs to make thoughtful use of new technologies like the cloud to deliver more strategic services that truly benefit the enterprise. Using the cloud can elevate IT to a more strategic level and foster a new partnership between CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs that gives IT a stronger voice.
The cloud gives a proven competitive edge, with equal or better security, and a growing stack of reliable open source software. A CIO can use the cloud in a step-by-step strategy to complement and extend the existing infrastructure and move to a more strategic level in the enterprise. For all these reasons, the cloud is truly ready for the enterprise.