With IT budgets increasingly stretched thin, CIOs in large scale enterprises are considering cloud computing because it offers an alternative to data centers containing expensive servers that need to be constantly maintained by expensive technicians and periodically replaced. Alongside IT hardware, electricity constitutes the other notable expense associated with data centers and represents a commodity that, like capital investments in equipment, stands to be decreased as a result of a transition to a cloud computing model of software delivery and development. In a cloud computing environment, subscribers pay only for usage of instances of a server and hence avoid both the capital investment in servers and the constant drain of power and ventilation required to maintain data centers.
Large enterprises additionally face the challenge of maintaining chaotic assemblages of hardware that have been acquired over generations and vary considerably depending on the needs of each business unit. Upgrading fleets of servers and machines represents a significant logistical and technical challenge that requires standardizing security applications over a wide range of machines and operating systems. A cloud computing model enables large enterprises to render their security policy uniform and scalable as its hardware needs change over time.
Cloud computing also offers opportunities for collaboration and innovation amongst geographically dispersed business units that confront technological challenges in sharing their work and methodologies. By using a cloud computing model that provides an interface to a set of shared resources, geographically disparate employees have the opportunity to share information and innovate through a common platform with standardized tools. Moreover, a transition to cloud computing frees up IT staff to drive innovation within their business units instead of dedicating resources to maintaining data center resources whose capacity has been increasingly utilized given the proliferation of automated, computationally intensive or web-based technologies. IT executives now have the freedom to collaborate closely with strategic business leadership to determine how best to utilize technology to foster innovation, shorten delivery cycles and decrease costs.
Factors that large enterprises need to consider when transitioning to cloud computing include the following:
• Cost savings (a demonstrated return on investment due to decreased costs for investment in hardware, space, ventilation and electricity)
• Visibility to the performance and processes of Virtual Machines (VM) enabled by technology known as virtualization that hosts more than one image or instance of a machine on a single physical machine
• Control over deployment of the cloud and the ability to edit settings, provision or cancel machines at will and deploy additional technologies
• Security considerations and the opportunity to standardize security software across a diverse range of machines housed in different business units, enabling a more robust, enterprise wide security policy
• Accounting concerns related to integration of cloud computing costs with the enterprise’s accounting processes
Additionally, the opportunity to foster increased organizational collaboration and innovation represents another factor to consider as large enterprises consider a transition to cloud computing by way of a more easily accessible IT infrastructure for exchanging ideas across different business units and geographically dispersed offices.
Despite the benefits of transitioning to a cloud computing for a large scale enterprise, executing the transition from a data center environment to a cloud based approach requires significant planning and strategic leadership. Security and system uptime remain the two issues most frequently cited by CIOs as deterrents to executing a cloud based IT strategy. For large scale enterprises, security and system uptime concerns can be most effectively managed by a robust governance process that takes responsibility for service level agreements, security, regulatory compliance and ensuring that the enterprise’s IT strategy is synchronized with the company’s larger business strategy. Robust governance processes need to be supplemented by a cloud strategy that spells forth how people, processes and technology will enable the transition to a cloud based model of computing for the organization.