Why Move to the Public Cloud?

As a Seattleite, I only have to look out the windows to see a variety of often spectacular cloud formations. Businesses are following suit, creating their own cloud arrangements. Core productivity applications like Office 365, as well as many other applications for specialized business purposes are available in the public cloud. That is, they are outside the firewall, accessible via the web. Why are organizations transitioning applications to the public cloud, or prioritizing applications to move to the public cloud? In order to understand the public cloud deployment choice, let’s also consider why businesses are maintaining traditional, on premises software, using a private cloud, or using hybrid, private/public cloud applications.

Why use traditional, on-premises applications?
Many companies, non-profits and educational institutions have certain applications which are “humming along”. Their user base is satisfied or enthused, they have current software license agreements in effect, and the accounting group is happily writing off investments in the IT infrastructure directly supporting those applications. In many cases, these solutions keep business-critical information or customized software on-site for maximum security and reliability. Since sunny weather prevails here, there are no near-term plans to migrate these, particular applications to a web paradigm. This software meets the expectations of the users and the enterprise. In addition, it may possibly be state-of-the-art, and innovative.

Why deploy a private cloud?
Many companies and organizations choose to virtualize their servers to keep applications inside the firewall, optimize use of hardware, and make applications available to employees, partners and customers over the web. These organizations have talented IT teams or capable system integration partners, motivated to secure and enable business applications for ubiquitous access, and may have priorities such as:
     • Taking time to learn about information security best practices for public cloud applications, or about newer application capabilities and technologies
     • Financial interest in writing off capital assets: servers and storage
     • Applications written and maintained in-house which are intellectual property, or are specialized for that business
     • Regulatory constraints or in-house business policies regarding information privacy, such as for personal identity information or sensitive records

With a private cloud, an enterprise can enjoy many of the benefits of public cloud computing, such as self-service, scalability, and elasticity. As a bonus, they benefit from the additional control and customization available from dedicated resources.

Why choose the public cloud?
This is a subject I’m passionate about, partly because I’ve found that organizations and businesses are planning for and using the public cloud for so many reasons. Businesses are saving money and, in many ways, the public cloud is changing the day-to-day work in IT for the better.

Striving for Higher Productivity
Today, IT serves a multi-generational workplace with Boomers, GenXers and Millennials, each having distinct work styles when it comes to technology. Applications like Office 365 support their diverse modes of interaction with integrated messaging, presence, online meetings, unified communications, calendar and email. Public cloud applications can help companies’ IT staff attain the best ROI on assets and on cloud applications, helping IT workers spend less time on day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting for server and storage infrastructures. IT staff in companies using the public cloud can free that time to remove technology hurdles and enable employees to work the way they want, for better productivity. For example, they can focus on optimizing mobile interfaces for employees, and enable more collaboration using unified communications and messaging.

Dynamic IT and Savings
Cloud applications let you address spikes in demand for software.  A company’s general ledger application may have peak utilization towards the end of the month, just when payroll application use peaks, and also when the sales force automation tool sees a spike in usage as field offices post their forecasts. With cloud deployments, capacity is available for peak and off-peak conditions, and you save money by not having to acquire in-house hardware to fit your heaviest load periods. 

In addition, you don’t have to worry about costly server deployment or time-consuming server maintenance tasks. Keeping expenses down while reducing the environmental impact of a datacenter is a tough challenge. The public cloud helps IT departments reduce their environmental footprint, while still keeping costs down and implementing advanced technology.

You may want to use the latest software innovations at your company, and also want customers and employees to perceive your business as current in terms of technology and productivity tools. Microsoft offers enterprise-level security, financially-backed 99.9% reliability, applications and tools that scale as you need them, and services tailored exactly to your business needs. In particular, as a public cloud application, Office 365 reduces the burden of performing routine IT management tasks such as retaining current security updates and upgrading back-end systems. With Office 365, your IT staff retains control over user management and service configuration, so they can adjust the services to meet how your company does business.

Why create a hybrid, public/private cloud?
Perhaps your organization is a hospital. As Chief Infrastructure Officer, you are responsible for safeguarding deeply personal, intensely private information about individuals: their medical histories, past treatments, health conditions, and organ donation preferences, existence of private wills, billing and identity information. Your organization also manages information about its specialties, achievements, facilities available to patients, accreditations, medical and community services that are very relevant to the public. This particular, community information is not private to individuals.

In this case, your business application needs seem to map pretty neatly as “public” or “private” and this organization could benefit from a hybrid approach to cloud computing.  You may be able to reap public cloud benefits for applications such as web site hosting and publishing, and external fundraising campaign management, as you retain your sensitive data and applications behind the firewall.

Cloud Formation
You may be ready for a first step or a bold, second step in leveraging the cloud. First, take stock of your users’ workload needs and begin mapping them to potential cloud solutions. Identify factors such as regulations and privacy policies that would mean that an application is best retained on-premises. Look at whether you have an application which needs to be customized for your business, and whether you would like to retain that application on site through its transformation.

Next, consider businesses cases for taking key, portable workloads to the cloud. Moving an application to the cloud can save money. Look at budget priorities and budget allocations. Evaluate the IT cost savings and the ROI. Finally, look at ways you can streamline licensing and reduce any deployment backlog by moving applications to the cloud.

Commuting along route 520 this week, with Mount Rainier on the horizon, a strip of clouds formed a white ribbon following the path of the highway, surrounded on each side by openings of blue. After the coldest April in 120 years, spring is coming to Seattle. I hope your cloud formation is promising.

Comments (42)

  1. Ian Ray says:

    We've been using public cloud collaboration with a Seattle-based remote worker. Working together in real-time with status updates and online Gantt charts has made the old on-premise Citrix way seem so clunky.

    InTune is the nicest remote public cloud tool I have used from Microsoft thus far. The interface for administrators is kind of slow (can we have a regular webpage instead of silverlight?), but the client software is excellent. I've already resolved several software conflict and licensing issues with InTune. WSUS pales in comparison for remote locations. I really appreciate how Microsoft has made a tool that really makes the public cloud shine even if it meant doing better than their own on-premise software. Plus, I can't wait to tell our remote locations that they are ready to upgrade to Windows 8 no problem… what a great added benefit.

    Now that I use both Landscape and InTune, I only wish there was something for Macs and tablets. Oh well, someday?

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