Cloud 101

Cloud PictureEveryone seems to be talking about the cloud these days.   Poll after poll says companies and governments are moving a significant (or plan to move a significant) part of their IT and Telecom support to the cloud.

The definition of “the cloud” is a little bit like the definition of “being green”.   It depends on how you look at it.  Is an electric car (Tesla or Leaf) green if its batteries are charged by a coal power plant?  It depends:  It is true that the car emits zero emissions while it is moving, however it produced hundreds of pounds of CO2 while its batteries were charging from the coal plant.

The cloud is the same.   Most vendors have rushed to rebrand their products and services as a cloud offer.   Why?   Because there is a fundamental belief by large and small enterprises and governments that the cloud is good.

Why the cloud is good:

  1. First, and by far the most important, is the belief that it will save an enterprise money.  If it costs more to move your computers, storage or telephony out of your own data centers you would not do it.   The cloud must save money for it to be adopted.  A cloud solution can save an enterprise money if it has:
    1. A leveraged infrastructure – 1 server or 1 PBX supporting multiple customers.
    2. A leveraged facility – one data center with cooling, electrical supporting multiple customers
    3. A leveraged application – 1 contact center application (software) supporting multiple clients
    4. A leveraged support team supporting multiple clients.
  2. Second, is by paying for only what you use – the Electric grid is a cloud. You pay for what you use when you turn on your lights.   If you had to build your own power plant it would cost you a fortune – so you and others leverage the grid.
  3. Third, is by providing the latest and greatest – a cloud provider can keep you current on the latest release so you don’t have to manage and update your systems constantly and the new features and functions of the applications can provide value to your organization.

In the end most of the items above boil down to cost savings or added value.   If an Enterprise really wanted to they could invest and do everything a full featured cloud provider does but it is less expensive to outsource that to a cloud provider.

When is the cloud NOT the cloud?

Many vendors rebranded their products over the past few years to say they are a cloud offer.   They want to latch on to the positive cost saving attributes of a true cloud offer.  But like in the example of a green product you have to look into the cloud to see if it is real or not.  Types of clouds:

  1. Private Cloud – This is a 100% built infrastructure for a single enterprise. In prior years this was called outsourcing, dedicated hosted or managed services.   Those models have value in many cases but the key one that truly makes the cloud unique – leverage – does not exist in this model.  It is a single solution for a single user.
  2. Hybrid Cloud – This is just a funny term coined by some to mean that some of the infrastructure is leveraged “in the cloud” and some of it is dedicated to a single customer.
  3. Public Cloud – This is the true space for the cloud offer that allows the provider of the cloud service to leverage, people, process, equipment, software and facilities to prove a lower TCO to the user.

The cloud can be a great thing for your business if it is truly a cloud offer that provides the cost and services benefit that a true cloud offer brings.   Just be wary of any vendor pitching their product as green or cloud.   Because it depends.