Remember the days when we had to carry floppies, USBs and hard disk drives to access stored files? Well, times have changed, and how! Cloud computing has revolutionized the way enterprises manage, scale and process large-scale applications and derive value from data. A cloud environment leverages a shared IT infrastructure and reliable internet connection pool to enable users to use multiple apps, helping them solve workload challenges quickly and efficiently from anywhere through any device, significantly reducing computing costs. The elasticity of cloud technology, on-demand availability, high efficiency and IT capabilities are, additionally, driving companies of all sizes to adopt cloud services.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that the worldwide public cloud services and infrastructure spending would reach $160 billion in 2018, up from 23.2% in 2017. It also estimates the spending to reach $277 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.9%.
Let’s now deep dive into cloud computing, its advantages, and why you should consider embracing this paradigm shift.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud technology enables the reusability of IT resources for storing large databases, developing and hosting complex applications, and expanding computational power and other services on demand. Eliminating or reducing investments on large-scale infrastructure and software, coupled with the pay-per-use model, significantly reduces IT costs.
Some traditional computing techniques that have helped enterprises achieve additional computing and storage capabilities, while meeting customer demands using shared physical resources, are:
- Cluster computing connects different computers in a single location via LAN to work as a single computer. Improves the combined performance of the organization which owns it
- Grid computing enables collaboration between enterprises to carry out distributed computing jobs using interconnected computers spread across multiple locations running independently
- Utility computing provides web services such as computing, storage space, and applications to users at a low cost through the virtualization of several backend servers. Utility computing has laid the foundation for today’s cloud computing
- Distributed computing landscape connects ubiquitous networks and connected devices enabling peer-to-peer computing. Examples of such cloud infrastructure are ATMs, and intranets/ workgroups
History of cloud computing
The abstract idea of cloud computing developed around circa 1950 when mainframe computers were primarily used to access applications and data residing on clients’ localized infrastructure. The 1960s saw the birth of IT services coupled with a growing demand for personal computers which used decentralized computing resources. By the 1990s, the industry adopted dynamic client/ server architectures, with service providers offering virtual private networks. This era saw the demand for higher bandwidths and the ‘dot-com revolution.’
The outsourcing of IT infrastructure management, however, did not begin till 2000. Especially because by this time, companies had built up capabilities to provide advanced server virtualization services via hosted cloud environments. Since then, cloud computing has evolved to include the delivery of infrastructure, platform, software and, more recently, network ‘as a service’ encompassing IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and NaaS. Today, collaborative computing (a diverse collection of enterprise applications and virtualized social interaction tools) is offered as a service under the utility model to dynamic clients. Evidently, these and related advancements continue to grow at a rapid pace.
Who uses the cloud?
Organizations of all sizes across industries – multibillion-dollar manufacturing and retail, media and entertainment, finance and insurance, professional services, software and IT, telecommunications, millennial start-ups – already leverage public cloud services. Cloud’s evolving features, such as unlimited storage and powerful analytics tools, applications and system infrastructure software, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource management (ERM), content and collaborative applications, data management and delivery applications, are being utilized extensively.
How does cloud computing work?
Organizations and individuals downloading software apps on their computers, or on-premises infrastructure, to run their businesses is today a thing of the past.
Modern day enterprises and people are going the ‘cloud way,’ and with stupendous effect! Cloud infrastructure is improving organizational agility like never before. Instances include organizations now paying only for their hardware and software consumption, and having the advantage of immediately available cloud services and latest technologies that can transform organizations digitally and help them innovate and thrive.
Types of cloud computing services
The most common and widely adopted cloud computing services are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
What is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):
IaaS is a cloud computing model where virtualized infrastructure is offered to, and managed for, businesses by external cloud providers. With IaaS, companies can outsource for storages, servers, data center space and cloud networking components connected through the internet, offering similar functionality as that of an on-premises infrastructure. Some examples of the wide usage of IaaS are automated, policy-driven operations such as backup, recovery, monitoring, clustering, internal networking, website hosting, etc.
The service provider is responsible for building the servers and storage, networking firewalls/ security, and the physical data center. Some key players offering IaaS are Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, GoGrid, Rackspace, DigitalOcean among others.
What is Platform as a Service (PaaS):
PaaS builds on IaaS. Here, cloud vendors deliver computing resources, both cloud software and hardware infrastructure components like middleware and operating systems, required to develop and test applications. The PaaS environment enables cloud users (accessing them via a webpage) to install and host data sets, development tools and business analytics applications, apart from building and maintaining necessary hardware. Some key players offering PaaS are Bluemix, CloudBees, Salesforce.com, Google App Engine, Heroku, AWS, Microsoft Azure, OpenShift, Oracle Cloud, SAP and OpenShift.
What is Software as a Service (SaaS):
SaaS is special in that it incorporates both IaaS and Paas. Here, the cloud service provider delivers the entire software suite as a pay-per-use model. SaaS lets users easily access software applications -- such as emails -- over the internet. Most common examples of SaaS are Microsoft Office 360, AppDynamics, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google G Suite, Zoho, Salesforce, Marketo, Oracle CRM, Pardot Marketing Automation, and SAP Business ByDesign.
Types of cloud deployments
There are three types of cloud deployments categorized based on an organization’s ability to manage and secure assets as well as business needs.
Public cloud, in general, is SaaS services offered to users over the internet. It is the most economical option for users in which the service provider bears the expenses of bandwidth and infrastructure. It has limited configurations, and the cost is determined by usage capacity. That said, the limitations of the public cloud are its lack of SLA specifications. Despite high reliability, lower costs, zero maintenance and on-demand scalability, the public cloud is not suitable for organizations operating with sensitive information as they have to comply with stringent security regulations.
As the name suggests, the private cloud is used by large organizations to build and manage their own data centers for specific business and IT needs/ operations. The private cloud provides more control over customizability, scalability and flexibility, while improving security of assets and business operations. This sort of infrastructure can be built on premises or outsourced to a third party service provider – either way, it has the ability to maintain the hardware and software environment over a private network solely for the owner. Large- and medium-scale financial enterprises and government agencies typically opt for private clouds.
Hybrid cloud is the combination of a private and public cloud, providing for more flexibility to businesses while having control over critical operations and assets, coupled with improved flexibility and cost efficiency. The hybrid cloud architecture enables companies to take advantage of the public cloud as and when necessary due to their easy workload migration. For instance, businesses can use the public cloud for running high-volume applications like emails, and utilize private clouds for sensitive assets like financials, data recovery, and during scheduled maintenance and rise in demand.
10 benefits of cloud computing
Cloud computing offers plenty of benefits. The top 10 are as follows:
- Instant scalability:
Cloud computing enables immediate scalability of infrastructure capacity depending on the business need. It is like having an unlimited IT resource, which can be scaled up and/ or down to meet user demands
- Anywhere accessibility:
A lot of factors have enabled globalization, and a key one is technology and high-speed internet connectivity. Cloud empowers enterprises to deploy their applications across the globe so they can service their customers at a fraction of the cost of a traditional brick-and-motor businesses. Due to lower latency, customers around the world get an identical digital experience while using the applications
- Increased speed and operational agility:
Today, to cope with competition, businesses must have the ability to instantly scale their cloud capacity by accessing bandwidth demands from remote servers of a particular cloud service provider. If the business demand is more, the enterprise can turn up its computing capacity and IT resources availability with the click of a button. Such an ability improves organizational agility, productivity and efficiency making scope to experiment with new ideas and thereby, offering competitive advantage and the ability for the organization of any size to disrupt the market
- Reduced expenditure:
With the cloud, enterprises can focus on building their business rather than investing in hardware infrastructure and data centers that either remain idle, or underutilized. Cloud costs, however, depend on the consumption -- a variable expense
- Automatic updates/ patches:
When enterprises deal with several different kinds of software, operating systems, and applications from various vendors for their everyday operations, they have to have software and security updates rolled out from time to time. This is a very time-consuming process and the downtime for system maintenance means loss of productivity. A cloud service provider or a managed service provider can take care of these automatically, saving time and manual effort on maintenance.
- Disaster recovery:
The world is going digital, making robust backup and disaster recovery crucial for business of all sizes. However, on-premises investments for disaster recovery are things of the past today. Especially since cloud computing helps both large corporations and small enterprises save time and effort involved in this exercise
- High security:
Protecting sensitive, personally identifiable and/ or financial information is a considerable challenge for CIOs. Advanced cloud security features, however, have reduced the risks of information loss and cyber stealth
- Reduced carbon footprint:
Last, but not the least, cloud infrastructure significantly reduces power, IT infrastructure, and resource consumption by offering resources as per demand, thereby reducing e-waste and adverse impact on the environmental
From closed cabins to bringing your internet-enabled devices to work, irrespective of the device type and/ or global location, cloud offers vast flexibility and empowerment to businesses as well as to their employees
- Enterprise collaboration:
Company information no longer exists in silos (except confidential ones, of course). Centralized documentation control on cloud-based, file-sharing and social communication apps (like Slack, Yammer, etc) offers transparency and visibility into work processes, streamlining information flow and enabling better collaboration between teams, departments and employees seated in different time zones -- all of which leads to improved productivity and bottom line.
Benefits of a cloud-hosted CRM
Customer relationship management (CRM) software on the cloud enables business teams to access correct and consistent customer information over the internet. CRM stores customer details like names, contact numbers and addresses. It also keeps track of customer activity like website visits, phone calls, email, etc. It gives a competitive advantage to enterprises by helping them manage interactions with their clients and prospects. With cloud-hosted CRM, businesses of all sizes can afford a variety of user-friendly CRM solutions to help themselves grow and thrive. The simple sign on, 24X7 availability, reliability, high security, scalability and easy-to-use features on the cloud help businesses get rid of IT-related worries. Cloud CRMs are also compatible with multivendor products and applications which elevates their operational effectiveness.
Taking the first step
Rapidly changing customer demands mandate businesses to adopt cloud; quickly. Key steps to cloud migration are assessing the challenges, opportunities, business value and feasibility of the migration; planning, formulating and standardizing a roadmap with suitable deployment models and architectures; developing cloud migration strategies and methodologies for adoption; and finally, optimizing and refining the business processes and deployments to increase efficiency and impact.
Reputed cloud service providers
Some of the most powerful cloud services providers (CSPs) in the industry today are:
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud:
One of the most dominant cloud vendors offering comprehensive IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services. AWS’ key portfolio includes:
- Compute (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud - EC2)
- Storage (Amazon Simple Storage Service - S3)
- Data management (Amazon Relational Database Service – RD), Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift)
- Hybrid cloud (AWS Migration Hub)
- Networking (Amazon Virtual Private Cloud – VPC, AWS Direct Connect)
- App development tools (AWS Command Line Interface, AWS CodeCommit, AWS Step Functions, Amazon Elastic Transcoder, Amazon API Gateway)
- Infrastructure management (Amazon CloudWatch, AWS OpsWorks, AWS CloudFormation, AWS Trusted Advisor, AWS Config)
- Analytics (Amazon QuickSight, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon EMR)
- Governance and Security (AWS IAM, Amazon Inspector, AWS Organizations, AWS CloudTrail)
- AI and Machine learning (Alexa Skills Kit, Alexa Voice Services - AVS, Amazon Lex, Amazon SageMaker, AWS DeepLens)
- AWS IoT
- Amazon AppStream 2.0
- Mobile apps (Amazon Pinpoint, Amazon Cognito, AWS Mobile Hub) and document, data management and email services
Offers DevOps, integrated tools and serverless computing support to IT professionals globally, enabling them to build and manage both web and mobile applications and solutions. Azure is configured to develop open source software, mobile platforms, multiple operating systems and programming languages, devices, databases, and frameworks. Azure’s on-premises and hybrid cloud models provide maximum security and ease of management for application development. Its built-in AI enables development of data-driven, intelligent apps creating new user experiences based on real-time analytics.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP):
Offers a suite of public- and private-hosted cloud services for machine learning, Big Data analytics, app development, storage, networking, software development, security and other computational infrastructure to companies globally. Its services include IaaS (Cloud Engine), PaaS (Google App Engine), Google Cloud Storage and Google Container Engine (Dockers), Big Data processing (Google Cloud Dataproc), Google Cloud IoT Core, and AI Cloud Machine Learning Engine among others
Offers enterprise-grade IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud services through its data centers. Oracle has a wide range of integrated digital solutions including intelligent business applications, platforms, storage networks, servers and data offered as a service. With Oracle Cloud, businesses can focus on delivering customer centricity, analyze trends and customer behavior, and take advantage of new and evolving market opportunities, better expense management (minus the hassles of software updates, patches and licenses and hardware, including disaster recovery) and enjoy the benefits of advanced security and data protection
Salesforce.com’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a cloud software which empowers businesses with automation. Besides streamlining business processes, it allows better management and execution of sales and marketing strategies in addition to customer service activities
IBM Cloud (formerly Bluemix and SoftLayer):
IBM is one of the prominent players in the IaaS and PaaS marketplace. IBM services and solutions include computing, network(ing), storage, cloud deployment management, data management, security, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), mobile tools, VMware, Blockchain and developer tools to build apps, among others.
Clearly, cloud will continue to evolve. Organizations, therefore, need a technology partner that is well-versed with the market, accurately understands the technology requirements of its clients, and takes complete ownership of helping them achieve their long-term business objectives.
How to choose a cloud provider
Despite the numerous benefits that cloud offers, CIOs often lack the necessary knowledge and competence to choose a cloud partner equipped to help them achieve their business objectives. Before committing to a cloud vendor, it is essential for companies to understand the provider’s services, the pricing model, security and safety parameters, data center location(s), data recovery options, customer support capabilities, scalability, operational outages scenarios, deployment and user friendliness, and accessibility.
As a preferred cloud consulting partner working with major CSPs including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud and Salesforce.com, Trianz provides a holistic view of cloud technologies to help clients gain optimal value from cloud migration. With proven cloud migration frameworks, roadmaps and deployment expertise, Trianz transforms organizations – ranging from Fortune 1000 to start-ups -- into efficient digital enterprises.