The popularity of cloud computing deserves some discussion of what comprises the services and the value proposition to companies today wanting to become more cost effective. Cloud computing takes the concept of managed services and adds newer web-based applications called Software as a Service (SaaS) and virtualized infrastructure services such as SAN storage and Data Center services. In addition new application development time is decreased with web-based applications that can be easily customized. There are, as well, a variety of cloud services such as security, performance monitoring, application monitoring and desktop management. So why do companies want to adopt this new architecture and service delivery model? The answer is of course to become more cost effective and decrease the implementation time for new applications and services. There is an economy of scale that makes this an effective solution. A lot of the major Silicon Valley companies such as Google now offer SaaS.
Software as a Service (Saas)
As mentioned, SaaS is becoming a new industry buzzword. It allows thousands of companies to access web- based applications across and on the internet. The benefit is no development costs, no infrastructure costs, decreased I.T support costs and no licensing fees. Employees at any specific company can use their instance of that application anytime, on a muti-customer network, and be assured of top notch performance and network security. The cloud provider uses VPNs and Private VLANs (PVLANs) to segment company traffic and guarantee network security and privacy. The fact that it is web-based allows employees to run applications from anywhere at anytime with a common web browser. The ease, simplicity and platform support for web-based applications make SaaS very attractive. SaaS costs are based on a competitive subscription fee to access the software.
The cost of developing new applications is staggering and time consuming. Leveraging APIs from a cloud service provider minimizes the development and delivery time of web-based application services to employees. As an example, PayCom provides APIs for payroll processing. Payroll is a common application across all companies and an effective place to start decreasing administrative costs.
On Demand Infrastructure Services
This is a lot like older style managed hosting for example and offers companies a fast, customized on demand Data Center style service. You can decide, for example, to leverage the cloud provider managed online SAN storage servers and network equipment. The cloud providers have designed a secure network environment with centralized 24/7 network support and performance monitoring. Your I.T staff does not need to concern themselves with performance monitoring, change management, troubleshooting or application management. The centralized security of the cloud provider makes managing the devices easier and more effective.
Service as a Service (SeaS)
Okay, i just named that, but the name pretty much describes what it is – service focused. Most of this is traditionally what is called network management. Some services as mentioned include network security and monitoring of performance, application and desktop management. It is in fact an off-loading of a service or some part of a service to the cloud provider. The security service can be firewall monitoring as well as virus and anti-spam management. Performance and application monitoring are key components of any company management strategy. All companies today monitor their network environment along with how those devices are performing. The cost of new network management software and employees taking the time to learn how to deploy it can be very expensive.
Before deciding what software and services are viable candidates for cloud migration, companies must consider the cost benefit of deploying cloud services. Compare the SaaS cost structure with current capital and operational costs along with current I.T staff skills, long term business goals, as well as the specific security aspects of the company.
Anytime you use a third party service, consider what the implications are for securing your data? Does the data have to be encrypted? How does cloud computing integrate with the company Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) strategy? Does the cloud provider have a solid DRP architecture that guarantees network availability of your software and services during outages they have?
Keep in mind the fact that there will be increased traffic traversing your internet links and you might have to adjust bandwidth settings or network design. There will be more capacity at your company Data Center however and possibly across other WAN circuits. Make sure, as well, that your security is well designed from the company to the cloud provider knowing that the software and services are being accessed from the desktop across the internet.