Cloud computing and virtualization have completely changed the way that businesses deal with their IT infrastructure. It sounds extreme, but it’s true. Even though cloud computing has been around for over a decade, mostly in consumer applications such as Google’s Gmail, it’s only been in the past few years that business has begun to seriously look at it. In that span of time, it’s grown to be one of the most powerful forces in IT today.
The basic idea behind cloud computing and virtualization is twofold. On the surface, it entails taking IT services that are normally on-site, such as data storage or web servers, and moving them onto third-party servers which are accessible from anywhere over the Internet. Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) is a fine example of this. Thousands of highly successful websites are being hosted by Amazon rather than their company, because Amazon has a more robust and stable platform.
The other main aspect of cloud computing and virtualization is conceptual: it redefines IT as being a service rather than an infrastructure investment. Activities such as data storage, which traditionally involves expensive purchases of servers and people to maintain them, can now be considered an on-demand service. A company pays for (X) Terabytes of storage and data transfer, and if they need more, they simply call up the provider and ask for it.
From a business perspective, there are numerous benefits to this shift towards a cloud-based infrastructure. Among these are:
- It is almost always cheaper than on-site solutions, although often not as much as some cloud proponents claim.
- It frees up internal resources to deal with your business’s core competencies, by shifting the IT burden onto a third party.
- Because cloud services can be accessed through any Internet-connected device, it becomes far easier to integrate new technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, into the system regardless of platform.
- For businesses with end-user software, the customers also benefit from this universal access.
- Businesses can become much more flexible with their computing needs and demands. Future-proofing is also simplified.
Basically, cloud computing and virtualization services are growing at an astounding rate. According to a recent survey, over 60% of servers will be virtual by 2014. Cloud computing is a rising tide, and one that businesses are finding hard to ignore. The many overall benefits to efficiency and the TCO of their IT operations are simply too significant to overlook.