Is Cloud Computing Ready for the Enterprise?

By Kamran Ozair

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As one analyst covering the tech industry commented to me, cloud computing, or “the cloud”, seems to have risen on the hype curve at an amazing speed. A few months back the term hardly but now every technical analyst, journal, vendor and conference seems to be abuzz about it. Given all this hype, it is surprising we don’t have an agreed upon definition of just what the cloud is. At times it is compared with utility and grid computing and other times confused with SaaS and virtualization.


The simplest way to understand cloud computing is to think of it in a usage scenario. In this paradigm, a provider hosts a service and provides access to consumers over the Internet via standard protocols like HTTP, REST or SOAP. The service may be end-user software, a compute facility, a storage facility, a development platform, a business process or a hosting platform. The service is typically off-premise from the consumer and the consumer should not have to worry about installation of software or administration or management headaches.


Applications that utilize the cloud also come in multiple flavors. They may range from an end to end application hosted in the cloud (like Salesforce.com) to an on-premise application using some services from the cloud (e.g., an application that utilizes Amazon’s S3 service for data storage), to a custom application totally written for and hosted on one of the cloud platforms (e.g., an application written and hosted on Bungee Connect or Microsoft’s Azure offering).


Just like most new paradigms, cloud computing is more of an evolution rather than a revolution. It has really come about due to the evolving trends surrounding the Internet, service oriented architecture (SOA) and virtualization. The Internet is evolving from a medium that is purely used to access documents into a network of applications that provide access to a rich set of functionalities for the end users.


Similarly, with the advent of SOA in the enterprise and beyond, many of the tightly bound applications have become decoupled into smaller modules that can be served via services over private networks and the Internet. Finally, virtualization is not only allowing enterprises to consolidate their infrastructure but also allows service providers to offer a shared-infrastructure environment that acts as a foundation for cloud computing.


So, is cloud computing really ready for the enterprise? Before we answer the question, let’s examine the typical advantages that cloud computing will provide:


 However, there are also many challenges in the current model:

As you can see, the whole paradigm is relatively new and the definitions, working model, and services provided by different vendors are still evolving. Before aligning with any given vendor a thorough examination of their service offerings, quality of service, security model and payment models needs to be examined.


Overall, the model may be ready for certain kinds of applications in the enterprise but certainly not for mission critical and highly transactional applications. Applications that may expect certain surges of usage or that need a variable storage capacity would be well suited for cloud computing. It won’t be easy to migrate existing applications to the cloud (without some major rewrites) but new applications can certainly take advantage of cloud-based services to fulfill certain needs. Even for new applications, design patterns, security models, storage models, residence of business/compute logic, handling of failures need to be structured with a cloud infrastructure in mind. As the CIO you should examine the roadmap for new applications and see how they can leverage this evolving paradigm.  


Kamran Ozair is executive vice president and CTO of MindTree Ltd.

Ozair oversees technical competence creation, technology direction, building key alliances and the financial planning for MindTree’s Technology Practices for IT Services. Prior to co-founding MindTree, Ozair was a director at Cambridge Technology Partners, where he prescribed e-Business architectures for Fortune 1000 companies.