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.