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Cloud Computing fundamentals for CTOs and CIOs

Chief Technology Officers (CTO) and Chief Information Officers (CIO) are at forefront of the cloud revolution. Companies look to their technology leadership for ways to implement their mission in a cost-effective manner.
The challenge the CTOs and CIOs face is very real and can make or break their company not to mention their career. Let's examine the many ways the Cloud can be beneficial to the anybody serving as their company's CTO/CIO.

Finding Talent

The Cloud has influenced a new breed of technology workers. They have grown up using applications that store data in the Cloud to working entirely with Cloud-based infrastructure. These workers are impatient.
They want their data accessible from any device, anywhere in the world. When tasked with building applications and infrastructure for businesses, they do not want to wait to provision hardware. New tech workers want to focus on the mission, not the setup.

Experienced tech workers are taking note of this trend, and they're beginning to move their environments and data to the Cloud.
Their experience provides them better understanding of the tradeoffs between traditional Cloud environments.
This leads to many older, more experienced workers taking charge of the transition. For them it's a new challenge, and it gives everyone involved a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Improved Speed of Innovation

Companies that hire Cloud-aware technology employees realize an improved speed of innovation. Cloud developers, admins, architects, and others understand the benefits of using the cloud.
They expect to hit the ground running on day one without having to wait for others. This means building value from the very start. Just give them a computer, accounts to the services they need, and a mission. They will do the rest. The device and location rarely matter.
Combining software-as-a-service (SaaS) with infrastructure- (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings means companies can have a very small physical footprint and an effective, well-connected workforce.

With the full automation of infrastructure, environments can be built, torn down, and rebuilt in a matter of minutes with very little human intervention.
Development and test environments can mirror the production environment leading to quicker validation of applications as well as testing in as close to production as possible. This also enables better deployment models, such as Blue Green deployments.
Additionally, the cost is insignificant compared to what implementing the same deployment model would be in a traditional environment.

The low cost of cloud environments has led to a change in IT culture. The lower cost of experimenting provides many new opportunities to learn from success. It is less expensive to failure. Cloud-aware employees understand this and expect it.
If they roll out a new server and discover a bottleneck with regards to the amount of memory selected, they can simply spin up a new server with more memory. They can roll out system changes to a subset of users without affecting the majority of users.
If the changes are not well-received, they can spin down the changes and revert those users. What used to be an expensive proposition is now common and critical to how IT works.

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Lower Cost

Properly implemented cloud environments tend to be less expensive than a traditional datacenter. There is no hardware to purchase, maintain, or upgrade. Hardware support contracts go away.
Best of all, the company only pays for the resources it needs, when it needs them. The money spent on excessive resources can be reclaimed for other purposes. Whether the company is a startup or a massive enterprise, the cost savings of using the Cloud are real. CTO/CIOs will be expected to deliver and maintain these savings.

A transition to the Cloud also means moving budget items from capital expenditures to operational expenditures. That is because companies are no longer required to purchase hardware upfront.
There is no need to allocate portions of a budget for hardware refreshes. Instead, Cloud operations become the cost of doing business. With the money freed from hardware, companies can invest into other business functions and missions.

Security and Protection

Cloud security is a shared responsibility between a company and its vendors. The lack of control over the full security spectrum makes some CTO/CIOs uncomfortable. Once fully understood, that comfort level changes.
Vendors often take the responsibility of physical security and data isolation. They provide services that have been written and tested against tough security standards.
Their systems meet compliance standards such as PCI, SSAE 16, SAS 70, and more. Companies using Cloud vendors focus on security at the application and operating system levels. They take ownership of things such as firewall rules, encryption keys, and user account management.

Encryption in the Cloud tends to be easier than in traditional environments. Many of the managed services offered by Cloud vendors have encryption built-in.
Companies are responsible for the custom keys and certificates used to encrypt data at rest and while in transit. With a company managing the custom keys and certifications, the vendor cannot decrypt the data keeping it protected. Not all services support this security model so CTO/CIOs should take care when selecting which applications and services to use.

Regardless of encryption, a company's data is protected against other Cloud customers. Cloud vendors are responsible for ensuring data isolation.
Their managed services have built-in isolation without a company having to configure it on their own. No company can access another company's data without explicitly being allowed. Part of the physical security responsibility includes proper initialization and destruction of shared resources such as memory and hard drives. Each Cloud vendor details the way it handles these responsibilities and, if not already shared on their website, will share upon request.

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Managed services exist to be available from anywhere at any time. This applies to infrastructure, platform, and software as service offerings.
With SaaS offerings, this happens behind the scenes. For example, Microsoft Office 365 can handle a datacenter failover with minimal impact to customers. Customers do not have to ask for this, configure it, or worry too much about it.
It does not require any additional special hardware either. SaaS vendors pride themselves on maintaining impressive uptime numbers.

IaaS and PaaS offerings do require additional steps to handle failover. However, this is very simple to accomplish in a few steps, unlike traditional environments.
They make running in multiple physical datacenters easily achievable for most setups. The cost to do this is negligible compared to traditional environments. Instead of running two or three servers in a single physical location, IaaS and PaaS vendors promote placing each server into its own datacenter in a fashion that is transparent to end users and with little-to-no impact on the systems themselves.

At Cloud Academy, we offer content and learning paths to educate the CTO/CIO regardless of whether the companies they lead are already in the Cloud or not. Our content can be used to educate the entire technology team.
We are continuing to add more courses, labs, and quizzes to include the latest Cloud technology. Cloud Academy is the “go-to” resource for knowledge on Cloud vendors and technologies.