Business Agility Through Cloud Computing

David Grimes| Business2community
In so many industries, the pace of business and the intensity of competition translate into a new mandate: be agile. More than ever before, companies need the ability to retool on the fly, respond to competitive threats, pounce on market opportunities, and support shorter product development lifecycles.
In most cases these needs can only be met by a correspondingly agile supporting IT infrastructure. With its self-service, on-demand provisioning of services, pay-as-you-go pricing, and world-class management capabilities, cloud computing can provide the agility that so many businesses require. However, many businesses have concerns. Their data is often – rightfully – regarded as the critical asset to be highly protected, which can create an “anti-cloud” mindset. Data protection and compliance considerations continue to be major barriers to cloud adoption.
But cloud computing also presents an unprecedented opportunity. By eliminating the need for the company to fund, staff, and maintain a massive computing infrastructure, cloud computing lets companies focus their IT resources on value-add functions – the things that create agility. They can focus on analytics, process improvements, and increasing efficiency.
BUT CAN CLOUD COMPUTING BE DEPLOYED IN A SECURE AND RESILIENT MANNER? Absolutely. Cloud computing is as secure as other forms of computing. In fact, many security best practices can – and should – be applied when considering adoption of cloud based solutions. Of course, technology is only one aspect of the overall corporate security posture. Cloud architectures bring some additional considerations, but current best practices mitigate many of these risks. Also, note that cloud computing is not limited to just “public” clouds where these security considerations are most acute. There are opportunities to leverage many cloud benefits, in “private” configurations that eliminate many security considerations. In terms of resilience, cloud can actually enable a level of resilience previously quite difficult to attain. For example, consider an Infrastructure-as- a-Service (IaaS) cloud.
In this form, the computer is a “virtual machine” which is represented as a collection of data on a storage device – essentially a collection of files. Unlike a traditional computer the virtual machine is a purely logical construct. Now, of course, this virtual machine has to run on some underlying physical computer, and that device has some non-zero failure rate. What makes cloud unique in this case is that if the physical computer fails, the virtual machine can automatically restart within minutes on another physical computer.
While cloud computing does not eliminate the possibility of outage, it provides – within the construct of the cloud itself – an inherent level of resilience. Deployed and managed properly, cloud computing can provide the foundation for exceptional levels of business agility – the speed to proactively lead and the speed to nimbly react – that can translate into enduring market advantage.
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