What Can Cloud Do for Me?
Cloud computing is about moving services, computation, and data—for cost and business advantage—to an internal or external, location-transparent service or services. By making data, services, capacity, and more available in a service-based model, they can be much more easily incorporated into business and IT processes that can be ubiquitously accessed. This is often at much lower cost, increasing the value to the business by enabling opportunities for enhanced collaboration, integration, and analysis on a shared common platform.
From just these few definitions, we see both commonality and disparity, and those same issues exist across all the many and varied approaches out there. As a result, there is a multitude of overlapping definitions of cloud. The analysts have them, the marketers have them, users have them, and standards groups have them, and so on. We have one, too, but we won't get wrapped up in debates about it. Instead, we focus on the capabilities that the cloud model provides.
Perhaps most aggravating when investigating cloud services options is the marketing approach to relabel or brand anything and everything "as a service." This is called cloud washing. This just becomes confusing initially and an exercise in futility in the long run as terms become overloaded. We see "storage as a service" and "security as a service" competing acronym-wise with "software as a service." So, one of the advances is to say that each of these options fits into one of the three delivery models, SPI, and be done with it.
To understand the cloud then, it is better to focus on the attributes possible rather than ascribe a specific definition to it. Not only do the definitions change depending on which part you focus on, but also so do the benefits and risks.
A breakdown of these solutions with examples of popular solutions helps to understand the nuances of each layer in more detail (see Figure 1.5).
Figure 1.5 Cloud architecture sample capabilities and industry examples
Most of the examples are public cloud options, and the opportunity to fashion your own solution such as these as private cloud options does negate some of the opportunities we have discussed so far.
The addition of cloud-driven processes and web-based services to the SPI framework is intended to illustrate the higher-level business models and processes that can be considered. Furthermore, here we illustrate the term mashup, which comes from the Web 2.0 environments. A mashup is a composite web-based service created by mixing together other web-based services, or more appropriately, higher-level cloud services. This creates useful and varied solutions for users, but also introduces management challenges as delivery is affected via distributed capabilities. This essentially becomes a chained service model, and as with all integrations, or should we say "mashups," things can go wrong across the service components.
For a business example more grounded (ahem) in supply chain management, consider the history of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Planned to be the most advanced technical and component-based airplane in large-scale commercial aviation, Boeing approached the effort by taking a nontraditional approach to collaborating, sourcing, and integrating myriad components from hundreds of suppliers and subcontractors. The project was beset by delays as a result of too many issues. As a result, the aircraft finally lifted off for its maiden test flight on December 15, 2009 (more than two years after its original schedule of August 2007, and well over budget and suffering from a decreased set of capabilities).
History shows that there were numerous problems for Boeing in terms of supply chain management: integration due to standardization issues, component shortages, quality-control issues, and more. Similar issues come to the forefront when an organization chooses to use cloud services without clear strategic goals and management tools being in place.
To succeed with cloud services, business and IT leaders must recognize and deal with the fact that the role of IT is changing to include much more comprehensive supply chain management and vendor management. If cloud services are to be used, the traditional IT team makeup is incomplete and so must be enhanced with more legal, contractual, and business expertise. Those familiar with outsourcing are in a much better place to manage this new approach to delivering business value.
Cloud services can enable the business to gain much greater control over its IT-dependent decisions, as long as it has the correct management processes and tools in place. This is discussed extensively in Part III "Life in the Cloud—Planning and Managing the Cloud," of this book, where we examine the approaches and requirements for managing cloud services solutions.