Cloud computing has been advertised as a game changer for more than 10 years within the IT industry. It is only now that businesses have become calm enough with the model that we are finally seeing real advances in the market. Having said that, I think that cloud computing is not being used to its full potential and this may always be the case. Cloud computing has shaken up the IT industry, allowing start-ups and “Small to Medium Enterprises (SME)” to compete successfully with established, traditional, enterprises.
Netflix is a great example of a company using the cloud to disrupt the industry. While their competition spent endless time and effort perfecting the best way to sell DVDs via the internet, Netflix was rewriting the rule book. Initially, the Netflix service was built on a traditional data centre platform with no capacity for scaling up and down. However, Netflix made a decision to move to a public cloud and rapid growth began. Netflix rapidly expanded its customer base and scaled the business upwards while keeping expenditure to a minimum.
There are other examples of smaller businesses that use the cloud to provide support services. The logistics space has adopted a cloud based approach to track of their trucks, drivers and deliveries. Cloud computing plays an important role in the business model for these companies, allowing them to offer a reliable and real time overview, which would be difficult to do on a typical physical on site server farm. Customers also benefit from dealing with businesses that use the cloud as they can offer services in the most cost effective way, easily changing with their industry.
Cost has been an inhibiting factor for companies planning their future IT requirements, along with the limitations of the technology of the day. The growth of hybrid IT solutions which use both traditional private data centres and the public cloud allows for the implementation of almost any business model. Now, smaller businesses can theoretically access the same level of IT sophistication as any enterprise. Moving a significant part of the IT infrastructure to the cloud will reduce the operational costs and support issues significantly. It will also allow companies to focus on improving their core business or they can use IT to open up new revenue opportunities. Enterprises which introduce a cloud based solution are able to re-discover the level of flexibility they enjoyed back in their early days as a small business. No matter the size of the business or where it is at in its life, managing growth from an IT perspective is less of an issue with cloud computing.
Implementing a cloud based solution does not have to be an all or nothing approach. There are many options available from just hosting email or backups in the cloud, to virtualising work stations and servers. The big players in this space include, Microsoft with their Office 365 and Azure products, Amazon via their S3 solution and Avamare backup service from EMC. Most companies will have their own physical on site work stations and servers, but use the cloud for email and backups.
What the Netflix example proves is that business nimbleness is the key reason a company succeeds. Cloud computing does not guarantee an easy win, but instead it eliminates or reduces the cost of failure and a way of future-proofing your business. The cloud allows you to scale infrastructure up or down as your business requires. Organisations are also able to experiment with new delivery models. We are finally seeing level playing field, with SME’s competing against larger enterprises.
Every trend in the past few years, from “Bring Your Own Device” and working remotely, through to business intelligence and analytics, has all been made possible thanks to “Cloud Computing”. The cloud represents a fundamental shift in the way businesses have to operate and it is something that every organisation must embrace if they want to stay competitive. “Cloud Computing” is the future and will become ubiquitous as internet connection speeds increase and become available to more people.