Business & the Cloud
Cloud Use Cases
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If you have an understanding of what Cloud Computing is and are now wondering if this technology could benefit you and your business, then this course will help you determine if a cloud migration is right for your organization.
We will look at Cloud Computing from the business perspective and understand what it can bring to your organization. We will cover a number of different topics to try and answer the question, "Should your business move to the Cloud?" By understanding where your business is going, what you trying to achieve, and your objectives, you will be able to establish an effective Cloud business strategy.
By looking at what the Cloud can bring to a business you will be able to define the reasons or reasons not to migrate to the Cloud. We shall cover the benefits that the Cloud can bring with a business mindset rather than a technical approach by looking at examples of how these can enhance your processes, progress, and development.
It is also important to understand where constraints of the Cloud exist to allow you to weigh the positives against the negatives. We also look at potential ways of alleviating these constraints to reduce their impact.
Depending on the size of your organization, this course looks at the different use cases each may adopt. Not all businesses are looking for the same solutions, and these could be very different depending on if you are a Small-to-Medium business (SMB), a large Enterprise, or a new Start-Up.
- Knowledge to discuss confidently as to why or why not you should migrate services to the Cloud.
- Steer stakeholders in the right direction for a Cloud business strategy.
- Understand some of the different benefits and constraints the Cloud can have on a business
- Business Managers
- Business decision-makers
- IT strategy stakeholders
- Basic understanding of Cloud Computing – If you wish to get an overview of Cloud Computing, please see our existing course ‘What is Cloud Computing?’
- Knowledge and understanding of Capex and Opex
Hello and welcome to this lecture. Here we'll begin looking at what the cloud offers organizations that typical on-premise solutions do not. Understanding this can help you decide if moving to the cloud is right for your business, so let's get started.
Before making this decision, you need to ask yourself where is the business going, what are you trying to achieve, and what your business objectives? If you have answers for these questions, then you have an end goal. This is the first step in understanding if the cloud can provide you with the correct business strategy.
If you don't have answers to these questions, then now would be a good time to consider them. Without knowing what your goals and priorities for your business are, it would be difficult to really understand if cloud adoption would be a viable direction to go.
To identify these start by focusing on your key drivers for improvement, either strategic or financial or customer-focused that may relate to specific governance controls. Understanding where your organization lacks in development, where challenges exist, which could do with re-evaluation. These factors may be infrastructure-driven or even business process-related, but it's important to know where your weaknesses lie and where you need to streamline additional business functionality. Be sure to identify what challenges you face as an organization. Every business will have challenges, so identify what these are and try to define what you need to achieve to overcome them.
Once you have performance assessment, you have a much clearer mindset and be in a far greater position to understand if the cloud could aid your business and help drive it forward.
Okay, so let's say you now have your goals, targets, and key achievements identified. The question is can all of these be achieved by utilizing cloud computing? Let's take a look.
So why would you migrate to the cloud? What will it bring to the business? Let's try and answer these questions.
There are so many advantages to cloud computing, which is why it's such a hugely growing technology. To start with I want to take some time to talk about some of the characteristics of the cloud to clarify some points. As we go through, make note of any that can be useful in achieving your end goals and be of benefit to your organization. To be honest, all of them sound appealing. I did cover this at a high level in a previous course, What Is Cloud Computing, but in this course I'm going to expand on each of these and explain in greater detail the benefit from a business perspective. Let's start with on-demand resourcing.
On-demand resourcing essentially means that when you need to provision a resource within the cloud, it's almost immediately available to you to allocate where and when you need it. For example, if you had a server in the cloud and its CPU utilization was steadily increasing with demand, you'd be able to deploy a second server and it would be ready within minutes to take off some of the load of the first.
Now if you compare this to how you're currently sourcing additional resources for your infrastructure, whether it be compute, storage or network, you will likely be going through a lengthy process. From engaging with your supplier, obtaining a quote and then defining and ordering the equipment, you will then have to wait for delivery of the new hardware, arrange for the installation of the equipment into a data center, where it can be cabled and configured before it's ready to be released into the production environment. This whole process can take weeks depending on the equipment required. Weeks is often not good enough in today's world. Sometimes days or even hours is too long to wait for additional resources when it's required, specifically if it's affecting your customers' experience with you.
The on-demand resourcing aspect of cloud computing alleviates this issue entirely by providing almost instant access to a resource that you have selected and configured via a series of options.
Scalability, cloud computing offers you the ability to rapidly scale your environment's resources, whether that's compute, storage or network, both up and down and in and out depending on your requirements and demands of your applications and services. When scaling up and down, you are altering the power of an instance, perhaps using one with greater CPU power to scale up. When scaling in and out, you are simply adding or removing the number of instances you're using.
It's only because of the on-demand resourcing of the cloud that this scalability is possible. Imagine trying to quickly add additional servers and bring them online within your environment after a sudden surge of demand. Not only would this have huge financial implications impacting your budgets to cater for these potential peaks in additional assets, but it would also take valuable footprint space in your data center, which is also very expensive.
To give you an example of some of the scaling possibilities within the cloud, I want to review a couple of case studies. Firstly, Philips Healthcare, which focuses on consumer lifestyle, was able to scale out their infrastructure to analyze over 15 petabytes of patient data from over 390 million sources, such as medical records, imaging studies, and patient input. This data was then used to benefit the care of the patient. The cloud provider was able to reliably perform the operations required and scale to meet their needs at a growth rate of one petabyte a month. For more information on this case study, please use the following link.
Secondly, Airbnb managed to migrate and scale out their entire fleet of databases to AWS RDS, which is their Relational Database Service. They achieved all of this with only 15 minutes of service interruption. This was key to Airbnb as it didn't want to impact their community users for a long period of time. For more information on this case study, please use the link below.
Economy of scale. Due to the huge scale of resources public cloud offerings provide, which are optimizing share between different tenants, you the end user benefit from exceptionally low compute, storage and network costs compared to traditional hosting.
As you will likely be aware, often when purchasing products, the more you buy, the cheaper it becomes. Public cloud providers can make use of this when buying compute, storage, and network infrastructure in such huge scales, and this allows them to pass on the savings to you. Purchasing at this capacity simply isn't possible for the vast majority of organizations. This makes for very cheap resources within the cloud when compared to managing and hosting that same infrastructure on-premise.
Flexibility and elasticity. Cloud computing offers huge flexibility and elasticity to your design approach. You can choose to have as many or as few resources as you require without having to guess your capacity up front.
When your business experiences peaks and troughs of traffic for usage of your customer base, then architecting for these surges on-premises can be tricky to plan for as well as being potentially expensive. When doing so, you can base your resourcing provisions on usage history over the months or even years. But there were times when there will be inconsistencies. It's these times that could see your customers suffering due to lack of resources to support their needs. This can cause a negative impact to your business reputation, something no one aspires to have. Consumers now expect to access what they need with an almost instant response. Having failing and slow response times could easily see them taking their business elsewhere. If you provide goods via a website, then this is especially true.
The sheer flexibility and elasticity of the cloud allows you to deploy different resources and services within minutes or seconds, and gives you the possibility to have as much or as little resource as and when needed. This is often coupled with automation, which can be built into cloud services, allowing your infrastructure to stretch and shrink elastically based on custom thresholds, ensuring your infrastructure will always deliver great service to your customers.
I have another case study whereby Unilever, who sell consumer goods such as food, homecare, and personal care products, had two goals to be reached by their cloud migration. Firstly, to deliver a common technology platform for the web content, and secondly, to migrate all their existing web properties to the cloud. This was achieved by utilizing over 400 instances using the flexibility of a VPC, virtual private cloud, in an auto scaling configuration to handle traffic loads. For more information on this case study, please see the link below.
Growth, cloud computing offers your organization the ability to grow using a wide range of resources and services. Couple this with the on-demand element, and your growth constraints are significantly reduced compared to a classic environment.
To enable your business to grow quickly and keep up with customer demand, it can be a struggle for some organizations that lucky enough to have that success, especially when providing services from an on-premise solution. You may need a larger building to house your infrastructure. This could take many months to acquire before being in a position to allow you to extend your network. If you are a startup company who has just happened to launch the next game that's taking the mobile gaming market by storm, then it's unfeasible to host and scale your infrastructure out to cope with the demand.
The growth that the cloud offers many businesses is almost limitless. With its rapid deployments the cloud offers the opportunity for your business to grow at exceptional rates.
Utility based metering. With many cloud services, you only pay for what you use. What do I mean by this? If you only have one server running for two hours and then shut it down, then you only pay for two hours' worth of compute resources and that's it. Think of it like this. In your house you only pay for electricity when you use it, and to help keep costs down, you turn off the lights when you are not using them. So it's the same bit in process. You only pay for resources when you are using them.
Typically within a data center, your infrastructure is up and running 24/7/365, always running, always on, but not always utilized. The power on coiling costs alone for this infrastructure can be phenomenal over the year, especially when you're talking hundreds or even thousands of servers. Wouldn't it be great if you could just go along and switch off the servers when you're not using them? Well, in essence you could, but it rarely occurs, and even if you did, you'd still be paying for the footprint space that those servers took up.
The cloud offers you the ability to shut down any instance that isn't in use. At that point you instantly stop paying for that resource. This could even be scripted. So for example, at 6:00 p.m. every day, all test and development servers are switched off, and then turned back on again at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
Shared infrastructure. Hosts within the cloud are virtualized. As a result multiple tenants can be running instances on the same piece of hardware, which significantly reduces the amount of physical hardware required, which in turn reduces the amount of power, coiling and space required in the data center. This all helps with economy of scale, all resulting in cheaper costs for you.
With some cloud providers you can in fact have a dedicated instance whereby no other customer can run instances on the same hardware that your instance is running on. Or for greater management and control, you can even have a dedicated host, which also prevents any other customer running instances on that same host. The difference between a dedicated instance and a dedicated host is that a dedicated host gives you far greater control and visibility, allowing you to decide which instances to place on that same host over the time period. Dedicated hosts also give you the visibility of sockets and cores which you can use to manage licensing on your own server-bound software, which is licensed per socket or per core. Dedicated instances do not give this control of the host, and they are automatically deployed on a host of the cloud provider's choice.
The greater control and management reduces the overall optimization of that host, and as a result the cloud provider would compensate for this by charging you an increased price compared to that of the same instance type on a shared host.
So unless there are strict governance or security controls requiring you to have a dedicated host, or you have server license issues whereby you need to be able to see the sockets and cores of the server, then I would suggest using the shared tenancy option. By doing so, you would benefit from a greater cost savings across your overall cloud operating costs.
Highly available. By design many of the core services within the public cloud and its underlying infrastructure are replicated across different geographic zones and regions.
This alone can be huge to many businesses. To have offsite replication built into some services offers a significant advantage over on-premise business continuity solutions. Many organizations do not have the luxury of having multiple sites to replicate their data, or they are often too small to operate a wide-scale disaster recovery program. To have the availability and resiliency of the cloud helps to ensure the durability and availability of your data often without additional configuration dependent on the service type. It's all provided by the vendor as a part of their service.
This offers great comfort to many businesses, but it's important to understand at which point the resiliency is managed by the vendor and when it's managed by you, the end user. You do not want to become too complacent and be caught out when disaster does strike. Understanding where the responsibility of the vendor stops from a resiliency perspective and where your responsibility starts varies from vendor-to-vendor and from service-to-service. Ensure you understand which services are managed by your chosen vendor as these managed services that often offer built-in management and resiliency which prevents you from having to architect such means. It's one thing to add resources to the cloud, but architecting them in the resilient and highly available configuration is another.
Security, this is one of the most discussed topics within cloud computing and many enterprises still have concerns over how secure it is. However, public cloud vendors such as AWS, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure, are considered to be more secure than your own data center.
Public cloud vendors have to operate their security at an extremely high standard. They must adhere to global governance and compliances covering all industries and sectors. They are global services and as such must meet certifications from all over the world such as PCI DSS, ISO, HIPAA, and SOX. Trying to meet these standards in your local data center would be a struggle. Security is the number one topic that cloud vendors pour huge amounts of capital into to develop their security infrastructure further, advancing with technologies and developing new services to help the end users with securing their data. As a result the same level of security that large financial corporations require would be applied to an individual user who may be using the cloud to store their college documents. Security is a global service and meets global standards. To attain the level of security certification controlled and governance these vendors have within your own data center wouldn't really be feasible and to a degree, unnecessary, as some compliances may not be applicable to your industry. However, utilizing their infrastructure covers you in their umbrella of security.
Public cloud vendors provide exceptional security for the underlying infrastructure of the cloud. It's down to you and us, the end users, to then architect security in the cloud using the tools and services and applications available. As I previously mentioned, there are a number of ways we can secure our infrastructure, and it's wise to get a security specialist to manage this aspect for you to apply security at every level of your deployments.
That brings us to the end of this lecture, and I hope it's provided an overview of how cloud technology can be used to change the way you manage your current workloads, and the benefits that the cloud can offer many organizations. Next we'll be looking at the benefits that the cloud can bring to your business.
Stuart has been working within the IT industry for two decades covering a huge range of topic areas and technologies, from data center and network infrastructure design, to cloud architecture and implementation.
To date, Stuart has created 150+ courses relating to Cloud reaching over 180,000 students, mostly within the AWS category and with a heavy focus on security and compliance.
Stuart is a member of the AWS Community Builders Program for his contributions towards AWS.
He is AWS certified and accredited in addition to being a published author covering topics across the AWS landscape.
In January 2016 Stuart was awarded ‘Expert of the Year Award 2015’ from Experts Exchange for his knowledge share within cloud services to the community.
Stuart enjoys writing about cloud technologies and you will find many of his articles within our blog pages.