5 Reasons to "Go Cloud"

The biggest buzz in IT today is Cloud. If you haven't heard about The Cloud, then you just aren't listening. But The Cloud vendors' sales pitches are very diverse. For some vendors, The Cloud is desktop applications available at your work desktop, your phone while traveling, or your laptop while sitting on a beach enjoying your favorite beverage. Other vendors focus on blazing fast applications and lower cost of transactions per second by reducing the overall hardware footprint and associated resource while increasing server performance. Others focus on "special sauce" software and hardware that performs some magic that was not available in previous computing paradigms. Whatever "The Cloud" means to you, this list of reasons to "Go Cloud" should motivate you to move out.

1. The Cloud is Lean IT ... and Green IT.

OK, yes, I concede that virtualization has been around for some time. There is not enough new in pure hardware virtualization to make Cloud unique. But this new cloud computing paradigm has something new in the way that virtualization is done. First, multiple disk vendors are embedding Apache Hadoop and Map Reduce algorithms at their core disk controller level to speed distributed algorithm access to data. Results of testing show huge increases in disk subsystem optimization. Coupling this with automated provisioning of virtualized hardware and software components is creating a very Lean IT environment. Provisioning IT services "just in time" or "on demand" is making IT very efficient users of limited resources. Since 2008, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has nearly doubled its storage workload and server workload at its Distributed Enterprise Computing Centers while keeping costs almost steady. But it's not just the increased computing power. The "green" aspect of lessened resource requirements is quite valuable, both from tangible costs and intangible public image aspects. In addition to pure costs savings from lower utility bills, etc., the impact of being a "Green IT" is apparently very valuable. A recent ComputerWorld article on IT in 2020 suggested that environmental activists, such as Greenpeace, will make energy consumption by IT organizations a key issue in protests, political arenas, and shareholder resolutions.

2. The Cloud makes IT cost less.

Simple math based on the principles of Lean and Green IT shows that IT infrastructure costs less in The Cloud. Couple this with the costs of running Cloud-based applications in lieu of on premise applications, and IT really does cost less in The Cloud. A recent study conducted by Forrester Research of 600 IT and end user respondents from 12 large organizations that had migrated from on premise desktop applications (e.g., Microsoft Office) to Google Apps experienced a risk adjusted ROI of 307% with a break-even attained in just 7 months, with the migration providing an average savings of approximately $21 per user per month.

3. The Cloud has an analytic for that.

Probably the most interesting (albeit from an IT geek perspective) benefit of The Cloud is the really cool analytics that have been created in the past few years. I was working a program a few years ago doing social network analysis based on actor-event analysis of text documents similar in format to open-source news articles. The analytics involved were cutting-edge Natural Language Processing, semantic and lexical analysis, etc., and the results were very accurate. However, it required some human intervention to determine, for example, if the recent Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie tiff was possible good news for Jennifer Aniston (not actually the point of the effort, but close enough for purpose of this blog). Taking the analytics to this level (cross entity, cross relationship, covert intent of actor-events) over an extremely large corpus required a new paradigm ... Enter The Cloud. From Google-derived Map Reduce and Apache Hadoop to Facebook's Cassandra, new Cloud-based technologies are driving analytics that were considered impossible 5 - 10 years ago.

4. The Cloud is a "blank slate."

Huh? This term is borrowed from US Army Major Philip Root, the Assistant Program Manager for the DCGS-A SIPRNet Cloud, when he referenced the ability that The Cloud provided his program to be agile enough to support new requirements by rapidly adding new technologies (via virtualization and automated provisioning). His "blank slate" comment succinctly communicates how The Cloud can drive new capabilities. Low costs to "Go Cloud" coupled with advanced analytics is providing his program with a big "Etch-a-Sketch Infrastructure" [my term, not his], where new capabilities are rapidly prototyped, and if successful, they transition to his program. If not, they simply shake the Etch-a-Sketch and start over with minimal costs outlay.

5. The Cloud is secure.

The top reason to not "Go Cloud" on most lists is one of my top five on why you should. How is that? The security concerns attributed to public or hybrid clouds simply do not hold true for private clouds. In fact, private clouds provide the opportunity to deploy a standard security approach across the enterprise. The Cloud analytic frameworks (Hadoop, Cassandra, etc.) have been hardened by various adopters to rival the security features of major software products. The analytic frameworks, which are key factors for Cloud adoption in Defense and Intelligence sector, hold promise for enhanced security logs (audit, intrusion detection, etc.) mining as well as better "Know Your Customer" and "Know Your Employee" analytics, which are major drivers for preventing inside and outside security threats.