Leveraging the Cloud
By harnessing rapidly increasing sensor strength, network connectivity, and compute power, enterprises can begin to solve challenges that were previously insurmountable. That, paired with the fact that computing resources are becoming cheaper than ever before, means that any organization, regardless of size or capital, has access to the tools and technologies it needs to build an international supply chain, a global audience, and a worldwide reach.
But despite these technologies being more available and accessible than ever before, provisioning IT systems and directing them to serve your organizational goals remains a complex challenge. Because of the high overhead associated with designing, developing, and deploying enterprise-scale computing resources, many organizations outsource these functions and processes to managed service providers. One of the most popular ways to subscribe to managed IT services is through an approach called cloud computing.
Cloud computing enables organizations to access computer system resources on-demand. Cloud users can rapidly provision and access data storage and computing power via the Internet.
In fact, the term cloud computing is used because network diagrams commonly identify the Internet using a cloud symbol. Utilizing cloud computing can unlock powerful capabilities and efficiencies for many organizations.
The Benefits of Cloud Computing
One of the key advantages of cloud computing is that organizations are able to trade capital expense for variable expense. That means that instead of investing in data centers and server infrastructure ahead of time, organizations can pay for computing only when and if they need it. Equally powerful, organizations can return computing resources as easily as they provisioned them.
Another core benefit of outsourcing IT management to the cloud is massive economies of scale. If a single organization provisioned the resources needed to run a networked server, it would need to pay rates which can sometimes be prohibitively expensive. But by aggregating hundreds of thousands of customers, cloud providers are able to efficiently divide up resources and drive down costs.
Perhaps the most powerful advantage cloud computing enables is access to cutting-edge technology without administrative overhead. In legacy computing models, organizations had to hire fleets of engineers with deep knowledge around data center design, cable management, secure routing, and server provisioning. Now, with a few clicks, cloud users can deploy sophisticated machine learning systems, business productivity suites, and globally available websites with minimal concern given to the underlying technology. That means that your organization can focus its energy on what is most important: your mission.
Approaches to Cloud Computing
Cloud resources are typically provisioned through one of three models:
· Infrastructure-as-a-service, often called IaaS
· Platform-as-a-service, often called PaaS
· Software-as-a-service, often called SaaS
Let’s start with IaaS. Operating and administering any computing system requires a set of core technologies and services to enable processing capability, data storage, and network connectivity. Using IaaS, organizations can procure access to virtualized servers, scalable storage volumes, and robust network topologies. Now, all an organization needs to do is provision operating systems, configure runtime environments, and install applications.
But for many organizations, configuring an operating system image, organizing storage volumes, and ensuring that data flows securely can be a daunting challenge. That’s where PaaS comes in. Using PaaS, organizations can quickly launch and access fully provisioned Linux and Windows servers, purpose-built data management solutions, and scalable development environments. Leveraging PaaS means an organization only needs to consider the programs and protocols their web, data, and application servers will run.
But this too can be a competency that many organizations would prefer to outsource. Understanding the appropriate software for a particular operation is something that often requires years of study and experience. At this stage in the provisioning process, many systems developers have to expend tremendous energy to account for the interrelations between different applications and how they will coalesce to form a user-friendly solution.
This why so many enterprises have begun to turn to SaaS. Using SaaS, organizations can rapidly provision all of the infrastructure, platforms, and application installations required to provide an immediately accessible solution. Powerful SaaS solutions that enable out-of-box functionality include Google Workspaces, Office365, and Jira. Using these solutions, organizations can abstract away all the technical details about IT resources and focus on what’s really important: generating knowledge and creating value.
The decision to use a particular cloud model depends on the organization’s primary goals, strategic vision, and core competencies. The enterprises that are already deriving value from cloud computing resources typically use a hybrid approach, selecting IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions after deeply considering their use case. Regardless of your organizational mission, understanding your cloud computing options will enable you to deliver value effectively, efficiently, and ergonomically.
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