A Consultant's View

Prairie Trail Software, Inc. ............................................................. January 2012

Why "The Cloud"?

Several companies are making a big push for "Cloud Computing". Oracle has "Oracle on Demand". Microsoft has "Azure". Amazon has EC2. There are a number of new technologies converging into "Cloud Offerings" and the different vendors offer different mixes of those technologies. Between all this, there can be some confusion.

There are several main business reasons to go to the "Cloud" but saving money on current operations is usually not one of them. These reasons are the push for anywhere computing on any platform and the push to simplify IT infrastructure. Companies get greater and new capabilities at a lower cost and faster by using the "Cloud".

For a long while, business computing meant desktops and laptops running one brand of operating systems, Windows. That meant that the IT department could write programs that ran on those operating systems and the executives and sales people would run the programs without any problems.

Now, executives and top sales people have smart phones and tablets and want to use them for accessing the corporate functions. Most of these devices are running other operating systems. While a number of companies have opted to write applications for those operating systems, most companies do not have the resources to move everything over.

One answer is to change the corporate systems so that they can handle any operating system and any device being anywhere.

The other business reason for "the Cloud" is that corporate IT systems have been rigid. That means that when demand for some services grows, it can take a bit of work to add IT resources to handle that demand. In some cases, the demand has surged quite rapidly and that growth caused significant problems. One part of "the Cloud" is the software that allows the IT system to be much more flexible - adding servers, drives, and other resources without the users knowing that any such changes had taken place.

Notice that saving money is not a usual business reason for moving to the "Cloud". Moving current operations is not likely to save much. It is likely to cost a lot. For applications that currently run on the laptop, it can mean a total rewrite. IT departments may be able to use some of the technologies of the "Cloud" internally at lower cost than renting them from a "Cloud" provider.

Many companies will be able to rent space in a cloud application giving them resources and capabilities that they did not have before. Such rental is definitely cheaper than developing such services. But for a "mission critical" private application, it is not "cheap and easy" to move it to the cloud.

Moving to the cloud is not a simple task. Reading through the case studies, just moving email support to the cloud has proven to be a significant step. Most companies need to plan, make contingency plans, and be deliberate when moving operations to the cloud. As in all actions, things may go wrong in the move. In some industries, regulations may prevent moving some aspects to the cloud.