Startups and non-profit organizations typically are constrained by limited capital budgets. Startups need to quickly launch their products and services at low costs.
Cloud computing allows startups to rapidly deploy into a "leased" infrastructure supplied by a cloud computing vendor without having to procure a ton of hardware, hire system administrators, and build out a data center. In addition, the cloud computing option allows startups to pay as they grow as opposed to having to pay for maximum capacity out of the gates. Startups also have the luxury of starting with a blank sheet of paper as opposed to having to migrate their legacy applications to the cloud.
Many non-profits, like the United Way and Goodwill, are funded by donations. It is in everyone's best interest that the majority of these donations are used to benefit the people who need help from these organizations. Building large data centers and hiring people to look over them is not a great way to achieve this goal. Instead, non-profits can now move their data centers to the clouds and spend more of its donated funds on worthy causes instead of infrastructure.
Small and Midsize Companies
Small and midsize companies have to stretch modest IT budgets to meet the demands of the business while providing 24x7x365 capable systems. Some of these companies cannot afford to support multiple data centers to protect against disasters and to provide business continuity. Others have a robust main datacenter and a scaled down backup datacenter that would allow the company to limp along for a short period of time if an unfortunate event was to occur. But the bigger challenge is to focus enough resources on revenue generation. The more resources these companies have keeping the lights on, the less demand from the business they can support. These companies often have to make some compromises in technology upgrades, architectural decisions, and infrastructure purchases to allow them to meet the needs of the business. I have worked in a few midsize companies over the years and witnessed this first hand. Every year we were asked to do more with less money and we often had to provide "good enough" solutions because we could not afford to build the level of robustness into the infrastructure and applications that we would have liked.
With cloud computing, small and midsize companies immediately get the benefits of world class infrastructure without having to procure, implement, and administer it. This frees up resources to focus on innovation and business demands. In addition, these companies can leverage multiple datacenters located in different geographical locations to meet their disaster recovery and business continuity needs. As the demand for computing resources increase, staff can add additional servers and disk on the fly by using tools provider by the cloud computing vendor without having to purchase any hardware. They simply just tap into some more computing resources into the cloud and pay for what they use.
Large companies with billion dollar IT budgets do not have a lot of the issues that the startups, non profits, small and midsize companies have. Many of these companies are watching from the sidelines as cloud computing matures, but still think it is too risky to jump in. The large companies that do adopt cloud computing will be gaining competitive advantages over their competition. Here are some of the reasons why.
Going green - Many billion dollar companies are under intense pressure to be more environment friendly. Replacing thousands of servers and other equipment is an extremely expensive and time consuming undertaking. Large companies can start by migrating their non-mission critical applications to the cloud. This allows them to go green quicker, cheaper, and get a chance to "kick the tires" on cloud computing at low risk.
Reduce costs - Energy costs for running hardware and cooling can be greatly reduced by moving applications to the cloud. In addition to reducing the amount of hardware to buy, this could prevent or at least prolong plans to acquire additional floor space, buy additional generators, or install more cooling systems.
Agility - Prototyping is another opportunity for using cloud computing. The business wants things faster from IT. IT can now quickly create a prototype by leveraging virtual infrastructure in the cloud and experiment with various configurations without having to go through long procurement cycles. Cloud computing can also be used to set up and tear down multiple test areas with ease and without having to free up or buy and configure hardware.
Security/Privacy - Large companies' biggest fear is security and privacy. That is why some cloud computing vendors offer private clouds for their customers. Companies can enjoy all of the benefits of cloud computing within their own private VLAN and configurable firewalls to protect their data and privacy.
Regardless of the size of a company and its IT budget, cloud computing provides many benefits that just cannot be ignored any longer. For startups, non-profits, and small and midsize companies, cloud computing is a no brainer. Large corporations are being cautious right now. It will only take a few key success stories from a competitor who drastically reduces costs and improves its speed to market to get more large companies on board. In the mean time, large companies should look at piloting a non mission critical application in the cloud and continue to monitor the vendors as cloud computing continues to mature.
About the Author:
Mike Kavis is a veteran Chief Architect with over 23 years of IT experience including distributed computing, SOA, BPM, data warehouse, business intelligence, and enterprise architecture. Read Mike's blog at Enterprise Initiatives.