As a parent of a 4-year old, I get asked a lot of questions at home. My son has questions for us all day. Papa, why is the fire engine going that way? Correct answer: Because there is a big fire that way. Papa, how fast can Lightning McQueen go? Correct answer: 250 mph. Papa, look how fast I am going. Do you think I am going faster than a rocket? Correct answer: Oh, yes! Many of his questions, I can answer. Some of his questions are strange and loopy and I have trouble answering them. Papa, why is everyone born on their birthday? This one gave me pause. He found it exceptional that not only was he born on his birthday, his sister too was born on her birthday and all his friends were born on theirs! How should I answer this question? I thought of my options – should I go the linguistic route and explain to him that the reason it is called a birth.day is because people were born on that day? Or upon reflection – was he really asking me why people are born on that particular day? Meaning, what happened in the past that caused them to be born? Phew! Clearly, too early for that explanation. He must have sensed that I was stuck and he quickly moved on to another question.
While I sometimes have trouble seeing where to go with some of his questions, I have less trouble seeing how the Public Cloud (Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS) will affect IT infrastructure within the Enterprise in the near future. The evolution and growth of Public Cloud has been breathtaking to watch since 2006 when Amazon Web Services (AWS) first rolled out its Simple Storage Service (S3). Over the last 9 years the services available have iterated, evolved, multiplied, matured, and have become enterprise-ready. The Cloud Provider options have increased too – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Rackspace, IBM SoftLayer, and many others. We can now provision compute, storage, networking, database, and all other critical infrastructure support services and get an entire enterprise-worthy environment stood up and working in hours (may be minutes)! For an infrastructure guy like me who has lived through two decades of architecting, designing, provisioning and operating IT infrastructure the old way, the first few times I did things the Cloud way was an interesting experience. Who would have thought that IT infrastructure – the combination of hardware, software, engineering, services and operations – could now be turned on like a tap and consumed on the go. Wow! What a big change.
It is important to emphasize that the Cloud (IaaS) is now well and truly a mature IT capability and a business tool. It will help every enterprise increase their agility, increase alignment between IT and business priorities and lower their costs.
The Cloud brings with it tremendous advantages.
- Pay as you go, only for what you use
- No upfront investment or long-term contracts, pay monthly for variable usage
- Flexible capacity, scale-up or scale-down
- Provision resources as you need them, within minutes
- Quickly deploy resources in locations around the world
- IT has the time to now focus on business and innovate on new projects
Startups, early-adopters, innovative enterprises are already using the Cloud for their IT infrastructure needs and are already exploiting the advantages that Cloud provides. The rest of us are now adopting the Cloud at an accelerating pace. Data-point – Cloud services are growing at a mind-boggling rate. Amazon Web Services reported year-over-year revenue growth of 50% on an already large base (Estimated 2015 revenue $6B). Microsoft Azure is growing at a triple-digit rate! Contrast these growth rates with worldwide server shipments growth rate – 1% year-over-year. Buyers of IT infrastructure services are expressing a very clear preference. When you look at the growth rates of Cloud services and compare those to the growth rates of physical infrastructure, it is not hard to see what our IT world will look like in a few years.
While the Cloud provides many benefits to IT organizations that were simply unimaginable even 5 years ago, the significance of the Cloud is really bolstered by the way it enables businesses to sell more, get closer to customers, and get more profitable. Now, which business wants to do that? The cohort of emerging technologies – social, mobile, analytics – are changing the way businesses pursue customers, engage them, learn more about them, and sell to them. The Cloud is the foundation on which you can quickly erect the social, mobile and analytics pillars.
Consider the quintessential IT dilemma – we’d like to align more with the business priorities but it is not always possible because we spend a lot of time, energy, and dollars keeping the IT infrastructure running and operational. If only we had more people and more dollars in the budget, we could do a much better job of creating new applications faster and being in-step with fast-changing business requirements. The Cloud will truly give you the opportunity to increase your IT alignment with business while staying budget neutral or coming under budget.
Consider these CEO questions –
Are we doing everything we can to get closer to our customers? Are we using all the effective methods of social and mobile technologies to be in our customers’ lives and pockets every day? Would our customers know right away via Facebook, our mobile app, or a targeted ad, or LinkedIn, of a promotional campaign we are running?
Are we doing everything we can to drive costs down for our innovation? Do we have multiple pilot programs underway using new apps with our biggest clients so they can give us feedback on our upcoming products and services?
Do we know as much as we can about our customers and their buying behaviors? Are their buying behaviors changing? Do we have an understanding of how they are changing? Why does our product sell better on weekdays but only during Spring?
These are fundamental questions that a CEO is interested in. And the great news is today’s technology is uniquely positioned to provide answers on all these questions if you are willing to pursue these goals. It is imperative that IT support and lead these initiatives. When you support your business units in pursuing answers to all of the above questions in 2015 while staying cost-neutral on your IT budget – that will be a big win for your business.
From this vantage point, the Cloud now becomes an indispensable and inevitable tool that you can use to rapidly and cost-effectively innovate and make your business more competitive.
What can you do with the Cloud (IaaS) today?
The Cloud will today allow you to do things within ‘regular IT’ that were not possible even a few years ago. Consider some of these popular use-cases for Cloud adoption –
- Storage, Backup & Archiving – Use of the Cloud to augment your existing on-premise and co-location storage infrastructure without incurring additional CAPEX. Backup and Archiving in the Cloud.
- Disaster Recovery in the Cloud – that’s proven dependable and at a much lower cost, potential to lower your DR expenses by as much as 50%.
- Non-Prod environments in the Cloud – like dev, test, qa, training, demo, etc. that are fast-changing but typically don’t justify large CAPEX
- Migrating applications to the Cloud – applications that are new or growing and are challenging your current infrastructure with ever-growing requirements
- Data Center consolidation – establishing the right footprint between on-premise, co-location and Cloud infrastructure
- Desktops in the Cloud – virtualized desktops in the Cloud for your always-on, mobile workforce
These use-cases touch upon core, fundamental services and operations within your IT organization and have the potential to provide greater flexibility, lower cost and better alignment between IT focus and business goals. And very importantly – will start you on your journey into the Cloud.
While I am not always sure how to answer the questions from the 4-year old at home, I am quite sure there is more Cloud in our future. Get ready for a different world, the more-Cloud world. You will like it. And your business will love you for it.