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IT as a Utility: Cloud Computing

by David Moorman, President

David Moorman

Traditionally, businesses have managed their own infrastructure and IT resources themselves. This in-house management requires high overheads, specialized staff, capital expenditures, and honestly – going in to work some mornings wondering if IT would work that day. A relatively new concept, cloud computing, is changing all that.

The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. With a cloud computing solution, your IT network no longer resides at your office, but at a third party datacenter managed by IT experts. Your data and applications are then delivered to you via the Internet. Sound foreign? Well, maybe it’s not as crazy as you think.

Do you ever wonder if the lights will work when you wake up in the morning? Unless you’re in the middle of a blizzard, probably not. And, you probably don’t manage your own power plant, generators, or substations to get electricity. You pay experts with the best equipment, professionals and resources to manage all this for you. The same should be true with your information technology, and the cloud makes this happen.

History Repeats Itself

In the early 1900s, few people took advantage of electricity as a utility. The technology was young and buyers were wary of the unproven systems and infrastructure. Energy was self-manufactured by water wheels, steam engines, and muscle. But by 1933 buyers were more confident in mature technology, and over 90% of electricity was provided as a utility. Now any appliance could be simply plugged into the electric grid – the network.

Companies are seeing the same thing happen with the cloud. The IT industry saw the first PCs rollout in the 1980s, and that led to the client server computing technology of the 90s. As computing technology has advanced, the industry is moving to a virtualized cloud infrastructure, meaning no longer will you maintain your own network, but trust in professionals to provide your IT as a utility. Gartner research indicates that “by 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT infrastructure assets.”

What drives cloud adoption?

Businesses adopt new technology for one primary reason: money. If the cloud were just a novel technology, businesses would be reluctant to adopt. Considering the huge financial advantages with cloud computing, more and more businesses are moving away from traditional networking to a cloud model. For a large, Fortune 500 company, the costs and resources associated with housing a complete data center with redundant environmental controls, fire suppression, security, and backup provisions are easy. For the average small to medium sized business, though, this kind of data center is unrealistic. Cloud computing allows small to medium sized businesses to utilize the same technological resources that Fortune 500 companies do because of the cloud provider’s data center. A small business with 10 employees enjoys the same network that a 500 employee company does.

The Shift has Begun

The shift to IT provided as a utility has begun. As it continues, computing will become a service almost exclusively supplied over the Internet or private network. Today’s desktop machines will turn into simple appliances that simply plug into the wall and pull their value from the cloud.

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