Cloud computing is rapidly becoming the holy grail of enterprise computing, with most CIOs, network managers and IT departments investigating how they can develop and leverage a cloud strategy. While cloud computing can often mean different things to different people, true cloud computing provides massively scalable IT capabilities as a service over the Internet, and can offer companies a single point of access to manage and meet their computing needs. When implemented correctly, cloud computing can help companies cut IT and personnel costs, produce a leaner IT environment and create a dynamically scalable infrastructure that lends itself to rapid growth.
In an ideal scenario, cloud computing can reduce the total-cost-of-ownership for a company's IT infrastructure by moving resources to the cloud and minimizing the physical infrastructure. It's a noble and intensely supported goal –- in fact, Gartner named cloud computing one of the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009, asserting that it can help companies deliver services in a "highly scalable and elastic fashion." Despite at first seeming like an elusive buzzword, cloud computing is gradually beginning to demonstrate some real benefits that validate its longevity as an infrastructure strategy.
Unfortunately, many organizations put the cart before the horse by immediately attempting to use the cloud to minimize compute resources and consolidate their IT infrastructures. While the benefits of the cloud can be very real, when companies develop initiatives that focus purely on a compute strategy, they ignore a critical component that could significantly enhance the benefits received by shifting to the cloud. To paraphrase a famous United States presidential campaign –- it's the data, stupid.
Companies need a comprehensive data strategy that can complement, catalyze and drive their compute strategy. Most enterprises today maintain enormous distributed architectures across multiple disparate data centers that require huge amounts of compute power to move the correct operational data to the right applications and people in real-time.
While moving resources to a private or public cloud can reap major cost-saving rewards, that move has to incorporate an elastic data infrastructure, one that makes data ubiquitous and available that much faster to the applications and users that need it most. An elastic data fabric can also help reduce physical resources and lower costs associated with powering the data center. It creates a more resilient data infrastructure that increases failure tolerance, reduces latency and delivers data more reliably, enabling companies to analyze and make better business decisions based on that data.