As VP of Product Management for ViaWest, Jim Thompson leverages his over 25 years of broad technology experience. His background includes experience in managing software development, embedded firmware, DSP programmers, DB systems designers, along with product roadmap and strategic product management.
Cloud computing can mean many different things depending on whom you speak with and what their experience has been thus far with the cloud. I think we would all agree about the significance cloud computing plays and that it will continue to positively impact us within the communications industry. It’s a fast-growing segment as noted by Altman Vilandre & Company, which reported worldwide revenues from cloud services are expected to reach $31 billion by 2013. In the U.S. alone, revenue could exceed $10 billion by 2014.
Knowledge is Power
Fully understanding what’s available and the differences in cloud models will help you optimally structure your IT environment and capitalize on the benefits, as well as plan for future growth.
If you are an IT professional managing network and data resources in a data center environment, you will most likely have access to a variety of resources and tools to help you leverage the cloud for your company. By understanding the various models of multi-tenant, hosted resources, whether they are software (SaaS cloud model), platform configurations (PaaS model) or infrastructure (IaaS cloud model), you can tailor a solution to suit your business requirements, meet technical objectives and maximize ROI.
To get us all on the same page, let’s review a few of the various cloud models:
SaaS – Software as a Service (SaaS) is an attractive cloud model that supports specific business applications ranging from email to collaboration to enterprise services such as CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning). SaaS offers customers only the functions performed by applications, which are made accessible through thick or thin client infrastructure.
PaaS – Platform as a Service (PaaS) enables customers to create and configure hosting environments to build and deploy applications. PaaS supports developers, but typically provides little or no control over the infrastructure used.
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers customers on-demand processing, storage and network services to deploy any software. Customers don’t control underlying infrastructure but they control OS, storage, applications and networking components. Infrastructure as a Service offers businesses affordable scalability. Enterprises may use IaaS for specific, highly variable or fast-growing computing needs. Infrastructure as a Service also provides for fundamental flexibility.
IaaS Growing Swiftly
While SaaS is the most mature cloud model, IaaS is the fastest-growing segment, as companies of all sizes leverage the benefits, which include affordable access to enterprise-class solutions, predictable cost structures and rapid scalability. Small- to medium-sized businesses look for added flexibility and a way to reduce costs, particularly CAPEX, while still meeting the demands of their customers. Large, complex applications require capacity and throughput that many companies cannot afford to manage themselves and deploy on-site. It is for those reasons that Infrastructure as a Service is a cost-effective way to scale rapidly and accommodate growth without significantly increasing overall IT spends.
Another reason IaaS is the fastest growing segment may be stability. As PaaS and SaaS offer attractive services, a simple change in management or new features from a competing service can cause a whole-scale change. Leveraging IaaS offers more stability and ensures your environment is immune to such changes.
How to Pick a Provider
When choosing a cloud option for your IT environment, look to a data center provider that offers a cloud service model with immediate, on-demand access to not only infrastructure but also processing, storage and networking resources. Cloud infrastructure should integrate seamlessly with other components, creating a flexible solution. By blending cloud services with your existing data center services, you benefit from the familiarity your data center provider has with your business needs and infrastructure. In addition, by leveraging the highly available, secure environment of your provider’s data center, you’ll only have to deal with one vendor, and you’ll receive more consistent service. Whatever option you choose, you can be sure cloud computing will continue to evolve as users understand and utilize the technology more and more.
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