Identifying applications for public and private clouds

Before leaping head first into cloud services, figure which applications are best suited to a public versus private cloud. This article will help you define target apps for the cloud.

Enterprises are unanimous in agreeing that they are not likely to outsource all, or even a majority, of their applications to public cloud computing. They are also largely in agreement that not every application or every enterprise would be a fit for private cloud computing.

Cloud computing is all about efficient use of resources, principally, managing capital and technology support costs. Finding where resource efficiency could be low is the key to finding cloud computing applications.

Good candidates for the cloud:

  • Applications that are used by a group of mobile workers to manage their time and activity, and that contribute only limited information to the company's broad management information databases. Sales support and field service support applications are good examples of this.
  • Applications that require system hardware or software not normally used by your company's IT operations. An example would be a Linux application in a Windows shop.
  • Applications that are run infrequently but require significant computing resources when run. The cost of sustaining the excess internal IT capacity for these applications can be significant. This is particularly true if the applications must be run ad hoc, and thus could collide with normal IT schedules.
  • Applications that are run in a time zone different from that where your company's IT personnel are located, depending on how much usage is offset with your support staff. Here, cloud-sourcing may be a better alternative than starting your own multi-shift support operations.
  • Major changes in company IT use, created by M&A, business changes, etc. can benefit from public cloud computing during the period of IT transition. The cloud is a good framework for testing and prototyping application changes, even if the final applications will be run on your own infrastructure.
  • If your company is planning on outsourcing web hosting and Internet-hosted customer or employee services, the back-end server portion of these applications are good candidates for public cloud computing implementation.
  • Companies who have distributed server locations and data centers to support a set of applications used throughout the company. By creating a larger resource pool, you may be able to make more efficient use of servers and storage, lowering equipment costs, and also support your IT investment more efficiently. The more server complexes your company uses, the more it stands to gain from private cloud computing.
  • Companies who want to have backup for critical applications are good candidates for both public and private cloud computing. By creating a cloud-friendly internal IT structure, you'll find it easier and more efficient to outsource applications to the cloud if internal systems fail or are overloaded.

Obviously, the more of the above factors apply to a given application, the more likely it is that the application is a candidate for the cloud. There are other factors that can make cloud computing use more problematic, though.

Bad candidates for the cloud:

  • Applications that involve extremely sensitive data, particularly where there is a regulatory or legal risk involved in any disclosure, will require special treatment if they are to be run on a public cloud. It is smart to get a legal opinion before committing any applications of this type to public cloud computing.
  • Applications now being run on the company's private network and that are very performance-sensitive may create user experience issues if they're run on a public cloud. It is normally more difficult to control network performance for public cloud services.
  • Applications that require access to a very large database may be difficult to run on a public cloud. Loading the database onto the cloud may be costly and also create data harmonization problems with internal uses of the data, and accessing the data from the cloud is very likely to create performance problems.

Even where cloud computing is a viable choice, there may be better ones available. In many cases, it will be possible to use software-as-a-service (SaaS) instead of public cloud computing services. Sales and support applications (CRM, in particular) are popular in SaaS form, and SaaS eliminates application management and support costs that are almost always a part of even public cloud computing services. Personal productivity tools like "office suites" can also be obtained online from many sources, and even unified communications and collaboration tools are available as hosted services.

Experienced enterprise planners know that cloud computing, like most trends and new concepts in the industry, has tended to be over-publicized. That can create unrealistic expectations and disappointing results from early implementations. The best way to prevent this is to have a realistic plan for cloud computing adoption, one that assures the applications being targeted are the ones with the best potential for generating benefits.

About the author
Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is a member of the IEEE, ACM, Telemanagement Forum, and the IPsphere Forum, and is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal in advanced telecommunications strategy issues.

This was first published in June 2009

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