Tapping the Real Benefits of the Cloud
by Arthur Cole
The enterprise shows no signs of slowing the migration of data and applications from legacy infrastructure to the cloud.
But while much of this activity is aimed at reducing the cost of IT, particularly in the capital budget, it turns out there are many side benefits to cloud computing – at least, for the right applications in the right circumstances.
According to Smart Communications CEO George Wright, the cloud produces a number of hidden benefits that don’t emerge until well after the enterprise has committed itself to the new paradigm. Leading the list is the way in which cloud-based resources produce faster, more efficient processes for core enterprise functions, such as banking and legal services. Indeed, start-ups like MetroBank and LegalZoom are routinely beating long-standing businesses at their own games by providing more convenience and cheaper service to customers. Back-office functions often benefit from the cloud as well, particularly when it comes to automated data exchange between firms that lease infrastructure from the same provider.
The biggest knock on the cloud lately is that few applications can function effectively across internal and external resources, even under hybrid architectures. But this is more a function of the app coding than a fundamental flaw in the cloud, says Skytap’s Dan Jones. Just as legacy apps need to be revised to function on the public cloud, so too will they require additional development to succeed under hybrid settings. In the meantime, most organizations will implement what Gartner calls bimodal IT to determine which applications provide optimal service under each setting and the precise ways they can function together non-disruptively.
As well, cloud providers are increasingly tailoring their resources to suit key industry verticals, providing a more optimized and forward-leaning environment than targeted enterprises can usually develop for themselves. A case in point is Denmark’s NNIT, which recently launched a new hybrid cloud platform tailored to the life sciences. Based on Microsoft Azure and NNIT’s own data resources, the cloud provides key services like compliance, data protection and security, plus the scalability needed to run large workloads at low cost and with rapid turnaround.
Cloud providers also have a vested interest in building and maintaining state-of-the-art infrastructure, which in this day and age translates to things like advanced, intelligent automation and high-speed neural networking. AWS recently took the wraps off a suite of AI-driven services such as embedded deep learning and elastic GPUs in support of increasingly customized application and service delivery. In addition, the company is working to deploy Alexa-based conversational technologies based in its enterprise offerings, as well as tools for image recognition and analysis, FPGA-based hardware acceleration and algorithm processing and open, distributed development libraries like MXNet.
Despite the cloud’s increasing dominance over enterprise workloads, it will probably be a while before we see the last vestiges of in-house data infrastructure. Developments like hyperconvergence and modularization are lowering both the capital and operational costs of on-premises resources at a steady clip, and there is still something to be said for maintaining critical data and applications in close proximity to those who need them most.
But in terms of diversity, flexibility and scale, it will be tough to beat the cloud for the vast majority of enterprise activity going forward, particularly once organizations get a glimpse of what the Internet of Things will generate.
As the cloud becomes more adept at providing highly targeted, even customized, enterprise services, its efficacy as a means to support even critical workloads will soon be too great to ignore.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.