If we turn back the clock to a time before cloud computing became a popular conversation within every organization (only a few years ago), IT services were typically departmental and highly segmented. Yes, there were some organizations that ran more efficiently than others, but fiefdoms were the common practice. There were many reasons for segmentation, including the lack of enterprise software, inadequate network speeds, and let’s not forget, politics.
Over time, software improved and the cost of bandwidth was dramatically reduced. Offerings from telcos such as Verizon deliver communication capabilities that we couldn’t have dreamed of 15 years ago. Yet, in many cases, IT organizations were still slow to change the services being offered. Quite often, the IT staff was not up to speed on technology or the cost to transition was very high and IT budgets seemed to be getting tighter. For example, many large companies are still running Windows XP, a 13-year-old operating system, and it is only because Microsoft no longer supports the operating system that those organizations are moving to a more modern and secure computing platform in Windows 7 or Windows 8.
As a person who was an IT consultant for more than 15 years, I understand the fear of change. Change for IT, change for the users, and change for the business can be a very sensitive topic. The reality is that we now live in a highly connected world where everyone sitting in the doctor’s waiting room is connected to the Internet on their smartphone while the magazines lay still on the table. My three-year-old son Tyler can be found at a restaurant sitting in front of his Microsoft Surface scrolling away or connecting to a cloud service like Netflix.
Everywhere we go people are becoming accustomed to instant gratification from technology like smartphones and other devices that deliver information powered by some type of cloud service like Bing, Outlook Web App, Facebook, etc.
Working on a computer network powered by an operating system that is more than 13 years old is quite typical. Not only are these organizations out of touch in terms of productivity and capabilities, they are actually increasing the internal costs of IT because they are unable to take advantage of the benefits of more modern technology.
Nicholas Carr, in his book The Big Switch, compares the current move to cloud computing as being similar to the days when the electrical power grid was being deployed. The “grid” meant that organizations no longer had to generate their own power because it was no longer cost-effective. Power companies, whose focus was the distribution of electricity, could move much more rapidly to more efficient systems than individual companies because of the shared services model. Electricity became affordable and spurred other industries as each home was now benefiting from this centralized service.
Here a cloud, there a cloud, everywhere a cloud cloudIt seems like the word “cloud” is getting used almost as much as “synergy” in every conversation I have with IT organizations. It also seems like cloud computing is being presented in an overly confusing manner depending on who’s presenting the service and what their motivation is. After all, some companies only have a hosted public cloud offering and are attempting to strictly drive customers in one direction. But in what direction should you go?
If you ever get the chance to participate in an Architecture Design Session of mine at the Microsoft Technology Center, you will hear a few things concerning “flexibility of choice.”
The great thing about the Microsoft cloud offering is that you don’t have to choose between a public or private cloud solution. Microsoft is one of the only companies offering the flexibility to “combine” the public and private cloud into a single management construct: the hybrid cloud model.
Diagram 1: Three Hosting Options – One Platform
I believe the hybrid cloud model represents the future of IT computing for most organizations. It’s hard to overlook the controlled costs that public cloud services offer and the agility that cloud services bring. However, with any new transformation, people have to overcome their fears of losing control of their computing system and embrace the public cloud experience.
Hybrid cloud solutions from Microsoft built on Windows Server and System Center allow internal IT teams to provide the on-demand services that people have grown to expect from their consumer experiences and, as seen by the Forrester Consulting study “The Total Economic Impact of Windows Server 2012,” can provide a HUGE return on investment.
With the upcoming release (around October 18) of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, Microsoft will provide a FREE download known as Windows Azure Pack that brings public cloud features to the local data center. Windows Azure Pack provides a beautiful multitenancy management portal that mirrors the user experience of Windows Azure public cloud services. Microsoft is one of the only cloud providers today that offers a unified view to both public and private cloud services. By providing a consistent user experience across the clouds when organizations shift their workloads to a public cloud, there will be minimal to no learning curve to manage the organizations’ services.
Diagram 2: Comparing Windows Azure Services to Private Cloud with Windows Azure Pack
Now is a wonderful time to be an IT organization and to be part of the transformation to modernize how IT is perceived and how it does business today. Although ever-changing, the road to the future of cloud computing has been paved and each organization will drive down this road at its own pace. Solutions from Microsoft are helping organizations to transform their data centers and choose where to host services without increasing the complexities of IT management. Microsoft solutions can help to simplify cloud computing and provide organizations the flexibility of choice they want.
Brian Tirch has more than 15 years of IT experience and has worked as a Senior Technology Architect at the Microsoft Technology Center in Reston, Virginia, for the last 3.5 years. Brian and his wife Jodie spend most of their time with their wonderful son Tyler. Brian hosts a blog site located at http://exchange-genie.com.