The Cloud: The Real Deal or the Next Big Fad

I am an unapologetic cloud enthusiast. When Amazon Web Services became publicly available, I signed up for the first roll out of developer credits to try the service out. I remember signing up for Azure credit when the free month didn’t have a spending cap. I won’t say I was the first in line, but since my first exposure to the concept, I’ve always supported it. As a cloud supporter, one of the arguments among IT professionals that has driven me crazy the most is whether or not the cloud is just a fad.

Say What?The What?

Let’s start from the beginning for those of you that think I’m speaking a different language. So “What is the cloud?”, you ask? The cloud, as an IT concept, is just as large as the real thing. The cloud itself is a data center of clustered machines that are designed to create virtual infrastructure to support any workload it’s customer’s need supported.

The Types of Services

A lot of public cloud providers provide platforms(PaaS) that allow customers to use specific services without having to run a full virtual machine, or group of virtual machines, to get the same or similar functionality. These platforms normally come with a cheaper price tag, because most are designed to have users sharing infrastructure with others. Also, when you are using a PaaS you don’t have to worry about maintaining the physics infrastructure that it’s running on. That means you don’t have to worry about patching, reboots, service outage planning, or anything else that comes with running infrastructure. That’s on your service provider to do all of that.

Another type of service that providers offer is infrastructure (IaaS) services. These services are virtual versions of hardware normally found in your data center. Examples of IaaS offerings are virtual networking (i.e virtual switches and virtual routers) and virtual machines. Some organizations use IaaS offerings to augment or, in some cases, replace their physical data center hardware.

Why the Cloud?

So, why would a company use a cloud data center instead of their own? There’s a couple different reasons. Some companies want to get out of the data center business. They are tired of dealing with the headaches of running a data center like hardware replacement, data center maintenance, and capital budget planning. Other companies use the cloud to move some of their work out of their data center to cut down on costs. For instance, it’s very common for companies to move their non-production environment for business applications, like development and testing environments.

The cloud offers a lot of advantages for all organizations, it’s just which advantages you take advantage of, and whether those advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

So, is it a fad?

Some have said for years that it’s a fad, but I don’t agree. The amount of money that the juggernauts,  Microsoft with Azure and Amazon with Amazon Web Services, have made, along with increasing profits, would beg to differ. As a consultant, I have more and more clients looking to move their data infrastructure to PaaS or IaaS. A couple of years ago, their were more proof of concept projects, but more organizations are just looking to move. The stigma, that once existed, that the cloud is not as performant as a solution in your own datacenter is not there anymore like it used to. Also, with the investment that companies are putting in to developing new PaaS offerings, more companies are looking to move their services to PaaS offerings to not only save money by not running them in their datacenter, but also save money by running in a PaaS instead of IaaS, which is much cheeper. Microsoft is investing in the cloud shift through SQL Server 2016, where they have added new features that take advantage of the increased cloud attention and added features that utilize a hybrid cloud approach to offset storage needs of your on-premises SQL Server. If it was a fad, there wouldn’t be the investment by both consumers and providers. So as much as some would like this to go the way of Crystal Pepsi, the cloud isn’t going anywhere.