Providing guidance or consulting to organizations on cloud computing topics can be really easy, or really tough. In the past most of the initial engagement was dedicated to training and building awareness with your customer. The next step was finding a high value, low risk application or service that could be moved to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to solve an immediate problem, normally associated with disaster recovery or data backups.
As the years have continued, dynamics changed. On one hand, IT professionals and CIOs began to establish better knowledge of what virtualization, cloud computing, and outsourcing could do for their organization. CFOs became aware of the financial potential of virtualization and cloud computing, and a healthy dialog between IT, operations, business units, and the CFO.
The “Internet Age” has also driven global competition down to the local level, forcing nearly all organizations to respond more rapidly to business opportunities. If a business unit cannot rapidly respond to the opportunity, which may require product and service development, the opportunity can be lost far more quickly than in the past.
In the old days, procurement of IT resources could require a fairly lengthy cycle. In the Internet Age, if an IT procurement cycle takes > 6 months, there is probably little chance to effectively meet the greatly shortened development cycle competitors in other continents – or across the street may be able to fulfill.
With IaaS the procurement cycle of IT resources can be within minutes, allowing business units to spend far more time developing products, services, and solutions, rather than dealing with the frustration of being powerless to respond to short window opportunities. This is of course addressing the essential cloud characteristics of Rapid Elasticity and On-Demand Self-Service.
In addition to on-demand and elastic resources, IaaS has offered nearly all organizations the option of moving IT resources into either public or private cloud infrastructure. This has the benefit of allowing data center decommissioning, and re-commissioning into a virtual environment. The cost of operating data centers, maintaining data centers and IT equipment, and staffing data centers vs. outsourcing that infrastructure into a cloud is very interesting to CFOs, and a major justification for replacing physical data centers with virtual data centers.
The second dynamic, in addition to greater professional knowledge and awareness of cloud computing, is the fact we are starting to recruit cloud-aware employees graduating from universities and making their first steps into careers and workforce. With these “cloud savvy” young people comes deep experience with interoperable data, social media, big data, data analytics, and an intellectual separation between access devices and underlying IT infrastructure.
The Next Step in Cloud Evolution
OK, so we all are generally aware of the components of IaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Let’s have a quick review of some standout features supported or enabled by cloud:
- Increased standardization of applications
- Increased standardization of data bases
- Federation of security systems (Authentication and Authorization)
- Service busses
- Development of other common applications (GIS, collaboration, etc.)
- Transparency of underlying hardware
Now let’s consider the need for better, real-time, accurate decision support systems (DSS). Within any organization the value of a DSS is dependent on data integrity, data access (open data within/without an organization), and single-source data.
Frameworks for developing an effective DSS are certainly available, whether it is TOGAF, the US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF), interoperability frameworks, and service-oriented architectures (SOA). All are fully compatible with the tools made available within the basic cloud service delivery models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS).
The Open Group (same organization which developed TOGAF) has responded with their model of a Cloud Computing Service Oriented Infrastructure (SOCCI) Framework. The SOCCI is identified as the marriage of a Service-Oriented Infrastructure and cloud computing. The SOCCI also incorporates aspects of TOGAF into the framework, which may drive more credibility into a SOCCI architectural development process.
The expected result of this effort is for existing organizations dealing with departmental “silos” of IT infrastructure, data, and applications, a level of interoperability and DSS development based on service-orientation, using a well-designed underlying cloud infrastructure. This data sharing can be extended beyond the (virtual) firewall to others in an organization’s trading or governmental community, resulting in DSS which will become closer and closer to an architecture vision based on the true value of data produced, or made available to an organization.
While we most certainly need IaaS, and the value of moving to virtual data centers is justified by itself, we will not truly benefit from the potential of cloud computing until we understand the potential of data produced and available to decision makers.
The opportunity will need a broad spectrum of contributors and participants with awareness and training in disciplines ranging from technical capabilities, to enterprise architecture, to service delivery, and governance acceptable to a cloud-enabled IT world.
For those who are eagerly consuming training and knowledge in the above skills and knowledge, the future is anything but cloudy. For those who believe in status quo, let’s hope you are close to pension and retirement, as this is your future.