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When Is the Right Time to Move to the Cloud?

by Scott Mordue | insiderPROFILES

April 1, 2011

So many SAP customers are waiting for proof that cloud computing isn’t just hype — that it can work in their enterprise. With this in mind, Intel’s Scott Mordue explores what companies are looking for when they consider the cloud, what his recommended cloud computing adoption strategy is, and what the future looks like for the cloud.
 

If you are like many SAP customers, you are searching for proof that cloud computing can work in your enterprise and isn’t just hype. We at Intel believe that cloud computing will become a core differentiator in the future, providing advantages to those who can use it properly. That’s why the question we find more important isn’t so much, “Should we move to cloud computing?” Rather it’s, “When and how should we move to the cloud?”

Before we answer this question, though, let’s first investigate what companies are looking for when they consider the cloud.

The Key Benefits of Cloud Computing

When considering drivers for moving to cloud computing, there are several key benefits to keep in mind.

Agility, Adaptability, and Flexibility

Cloud computing services allow businesses to deploy a new application relatively quickly — in days or hours, compared to the weeks or months it can take with the traditional enterprise model of buying servers, installing them, and then deploying the application to the new servers. Users can generally purchase cloud services and begin to use them almost immediately.

Additionally, because cloud computing is built on a massively scalable, shared infrastructure, cloud suppliers can, in theory, quickly provide the capacity required for very large applications without long lead times.

Companies that use Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings can run applications on a variety of virtual machines (VMs) in a variety of configurations. Some cloud computing service providers have even created their own ecosystem of services and service providers to make the development and deployment of services easier and faster.

For those using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, increasing capacity can be as easy as getting an account on a supplier’s host. Cloud computing is also appealing for companies that need to quickly add computing capacity to handle a temporary surge in requirements, allowing companies to reassign resources to meet new capacity demands.

Cost Savings

Businesses can adopt a cloud computing strategy to reduce costs. To date, savings have generally been more clearly shown for small-to-midsize businesses. However, larger companies — like Intel — have achieved cost savings with SaaS deployments, indicating that cost savings can be a factor in propelling enterprise cloud adoption.

The relatively low upfront cost of IaaS offerings, including VMs, storage, and data transmission services, can be attractive, especially for addressing tactical, transient requirements such as unanticipated workload spikes. An additional advantage is that businesses pay only for the resources reserved; there is no need for capital expenditure on servers or other hardware.

Our Recommended Strategy for Cloud Computing Adoption

Given these benefits, why aren’t companies jumping right into cloud computing initiatives? Because the technology is still relatively new, many companies are waiting until it matures before they embrace it. However, we recommend that companies consider growing the cloud from the inside out — starting now. This means building an internal private cloud, moving on to an external private cloud, and then migrating to a public cloud as the cloud computing market matures.

To get started on your private cloud, we recommend working with individual business units to migrate conventional computing services to cloud environments. For these beginners in the cloud world, the first applications that you should move to external private clouds are those that do not provide a competitive advantage, are not mission-critical, and are not tightly integrated with other important applications. Also, to minimize security risks, these applications should not contain sensitive information.

At the same time, you can get a taste for working in the public cloud by taking advantage of SaaS offerings for specific applications that hold clear benefits. That way, as cloud technology matures and providers address security, manageability, and reliability issues, you’ll be primed to move more services to the public cloud. In addition, your company will already have a sense of how to best migrate services to the cloud, reducing the time it will take to see a positive ROI.

Then, as your internal and external private cloud initiatives begin to operate more like a single, unified cloud that can scale based on demand, you can move more and more services to public clouds.

To help with this transformation, vendors will likely begin to build middleware that allows any client to connect to any service, facilitating the migration of services between internal and external clouds without disrupting users. Already, as external clouds are growing in sophistication, vendors are providing segmented services aimed at supporting differing user requirements and client devices.

Looking Down the Road

Cloud computing promises significant benefits, but companies today would rather dip their toes in the cloud computing pool rather than dive in headfirst. As the technology evolves, however, we’ll likely see companies more fully embracing cloud initiatives.

Intel is currently in the midst of its own cloud computing roadmap. To help others on their journey to the cloud, Intel IT is sharing its experiences by publishing white papers and other articles online and by acting as a technical advisor to the Open Data Center Alliance roadmap (see sidebar to the right). For more details, visit www.intel.com/go/cloud.

We at Intel believe that cloud computing will become a core differentiator in the future, providing advantages to those who can use it properly.

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