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Cloud Computing: A Step in the Right Direction

The challenges of the corporate data center

The Emergence of Cloud Computing
Businesses today need not look any further than the path today’s Internet giants like Google and Amazon are taking. They deliver Web services using unbounded grids of computers, which behave as a single “cloud computer.” Amazon.com rents computing time on its cloud, called the Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. This offers virtually unlimited amounts of computing capacity. Individuals subscribe to the service and pay for storage and virtual server space on an as-needed basis.

This enables users to store photos, share music, buy products, and chat with friends and family and pay as they go, without the inherent headaches of managing your own computer system. Amazon.com loads the applications, manages network access, and runs as many systems as the subscriber wants. Unfortunately, large-scale corporations simply cannot subscribe to such services due to the sensitivity of their internal data. The need to secure confidential business information prohibits businesses from taking advantage of such services.

A Step in the Right Direction
Although businesses can’t simply subscribe to cloud computing services, they can learn from companies like Google and Amazon to alter the way they provide applications to users. For example, if they unbundled applications from specific computers and ran services as a network cloud this would create a far more efficient, easy-to-manage data center. Perhaps more important, it would allow for better resource utilization than is possible with today’s outmoded approach. Instead, organizations could consolidate computers and share multiple tasks among them to improve the return on investment – as well as the resulting system performance.

To gain further advantage, companies can automate the installation and management of application platforms, eliminating the tremendous time and cost involved with manual application provisioning.

The traditional approach to scaling up hardware resources to speed application performance adds cost and complexity to the environment while slowing the time involved with bringing new applications on board. Today’s IT managers can take advantage of dynamic application service-level management, a software platform that enables enterprises to adopt a cloud computing-like model. With this software tool in place, the organization is able to dynamically configure, activate, and scale enterprise applications automatically based on user demand. This not only simplifies application management and deployment, it eliminates unnecessary IT spending that was previously required to ensure enough computing resources were always available to fulfill peak usage needs.

Applying Best Practices
Fortunately, adopting this new approach doesn’t require revamping the existing IT environment. Rather, it is best to proceed in a cautious manner, making incremental changes judiciously. This is much safer and less risky than using “big bang” models that require immediate standardization of hardware and software stacks, or the rebuilding of the data center from scratch. Following a carefully thought-out process minimizes disruption and yields maximum results.

Adoption of dynamic application service level management involves a three-stage process.

First, automate application provisioning. While there are many tools available that help us build better applications and tools to enhance testing, there has been less focus on optimizing the delivery of applications. Most organizations have ad hoc means in place for application provisioning. Every technology has its own model for packaging an application, which usually requires manual intervention by any number of staff members. The first step in dynamic application service-level management is standardizing these processes to reduce errors and speed up the time-to-market of new applications.

Once application provisioning is established, the next phase is to adapt policies around the sharing of technical resources. This involves defining policies for allocating resources based on workloads, SLA, and corporate policies. Once the policies are defined, they can be dynamically managed using the dynamic application service-level management platform.

The third phase involves evaluating utilization rates. This involves determining the right trigger points for proactive adjustment of resources, as usage needs scale up or down. Having intelligent software in place that applies these decisions helps to minimize wasteful IT spending, eliminate unnecessary labor costs, and ensure the organization is always meeting service-level agreements.

Conclusion
Businesses today cannot relinquish control of their computing resources to cloud computing vendors. However, they can mirror many of the approaches used by these vendors to break free of rigid IT constraints. For decades, companies have been locked in to a costly, inefficient manner of IT spending and provisioning. The fundamental building blocks of a cloud computing model – maintained in-house – can transform the way businesses deliver and pay for their computing environment. This results in faster, more reliable applications, without the cost and complexities that have long plagued the business world.

More Stories By Ivan Casanova

Ivan Casanova serves as the vice president of product marketing for DataSynapse. He has 15 years experience in marketing strategy and execution for a series of growth-oriented infrastructure software companies.

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