The sooner you adopt cloud, the sooner you enjoy the benefits
If, despite the media blitz of the last few years, you haven't taken cloud computing seriously at your organization, now is the time. Cloud offers value that meets, and even exceeds, the hype—an optimized service delivery platform that can solve some of your most pressing challenges today and support bright new possibilities going forward.
By "optimized," of course, what's meant is optimization as seen through both business and IT lenses. Consider the broad business case for cloud: with faster service rollout comes faster revenue generation, faster time to market, greater competitive distinction in a tough market, and higher customer satisfaction. That's nothing less than a formula for business success.
And the argument for cloud from an IT vantage point is even more compelling. IT services can be delivered both more quickly and more efficiently, thanks to the way clouds leverage automation and virtualization at an incredibly deep level. For instance, server provisioning, OS installation, and database installation, all core IT tasks, can all typically be accomplished in minutes—not days. Operational costs also fall; in some cases, such as labor costs, they fall by entire orders of magnitude. And once delivered, cloud-based IT services can also be integrated with relative ease, multiplying the business value each creates.
Add it up and you begin to see why, according to a 2011 CIO study, 60% of today's CIOs plan to use cloud architectures going forward.1 If you pair the right cloud model to the right cloud architecture, as determined by an organization's specific context, goals, and requirements, the return on investment can be both very high and very broad.
Begin your cloud strategy with any of four IBM entry points
“Organizations shouldn't always try to start from scratch; instead, they can leverage existing cloud adoption patterns that have already been used by other organizations and have already proven successful.”
Getting that return, however, will mean understanding the many complexities involved—and avoiding the potential pitfalls.
Should the organization pursue cloud via a private implementation, a public service, or a hybrid model combining the best of both worlds? How should existing services and data be integrated into the cloud in order to meet security requirements—both the organization's and those that stem from relevant government regulations? Will management challenges scale up, if some services are kept in-house and others execute via a public cloud owned and operated by a different organization? And how should business processes change, to take best advantage of cloud potential?
Toward answering these and related questions, one great way to proceed is to learn from success. That is, organizations shouldn't always try to start from scratch; instead, they can leverage existing cloud adoption patterns that have already been used by other organizations and have already proven successful.
And along the way, they can benefit from the help of a trusted cloud development partner with extensive experience in many kinds of cloud deployments—experience spanning both IT and business perspectives.
IBM is extraordinarily well positioned to be that partner. IBM offers prescriptive, repeatable cloud solutions—essentially, flexible templates for efficient cloud development and integration—that align closely with four of the most common cloud scenarios utilized by organizations today:
- Cloud-enabled data centers. This is a private implementation leveraging IBM's solutions and expertise in areas such as integrated service management, automation, provisioning, and self-service specifically to drive internal IT services.
- Cloud platform services. Organizations that wish to develop and deploy virtual web applications, or leverage clouds in other specific ways such as creating optimized test and development environments, will find this approach well suited to their needs. It supports heterogeneous workloads by dynamically adjusting to changing conditions as necessary, allocating resources in proportion to business requirements and minimizing waste.
- Cloud service providers. If your organization falls under this heading—or your strategy suggests that it soon will—this approach delivers an advanced, reliable, scalable, and secure platform to support your clients' services, thus monetizing your cloud's capabilities.
- Business and IT as a service. This approach helps improve the business value of everyday applications running on a cloud infrastructure, such as collaboration tools designed to empower a team in project development.
Together, these four scenarios represent logical entry points organizations can use to pursue a cloud initiative, minimizing risks and costs while also creating the specific, intended capabilities they need to address business challenges.
These entry points are modular, meaning organizations can pursue any one or any combination of them in any order, as their needs change. And they are backed by IBM's unquestioned leadership in cloud computing as demonstrated by some 2,000 successful private cloud engagements in 2010 alone, more than 19 million public cloud users, and over 1 million virtual machines managed by IBM every day.
Regardless of the entry point(s) selected, IBM's cloud solutions follow a consistent, systematic pattern characterized by three phases: Design, Deploy, and Consume. During the Design phase, the initial cloud strategy is established, as well as a road map for implementing it. In the second phase, Deploy, cloud services are actually built (whether inside the enterprise for its own purposes, outside it via a cloud provider, or by enabling the enterprise to become a cloud provider). Finally, in the Consume phase, up-and-running cloud services are managed in an optimized fashion at every stage of their lifecycles.
Let's explore the specifics of each of the four cloud entry points in a little more detail.
Entry point #1: Cloud-Enabled Data Centers
CIOs today know that conventional data center architectures represent a great opportunity for improvement—and a superior business outcome—via a private cloud. Making that vision a reality, though, will commonly require an extensive range of next-generation cloud capabilities. Among others:
IBM solutions can deliver on every one of those bullet points, empowering organizations with a private cloud architecture truly optimized for its particular context and goals. And when that happens, the return on investment can be tremendous.
Consider the case of the financial services company that, by working with IBM, developed just such a private cloud implementation. The results? Annual savings of $3 million—and service deployment accelerated by well over 1,000 percent.
In short, this particular cloud project paid for itself in under a single year.
Entry point #2: Cloud Platform Services
What if your organization wants to develop and deploy virtual Web applications? In this context, a number of considerations will likely apply. You will typically need to simplify deployment as much as possible, for accelerated time to market and easier management thereafter. You'll want visibility into performance from an application standpoint—regardless of the specifics of how that application may span the infrastructure or its resources. You'll also want integrated development tooling so that different domains can benefit from each others' information and capabilities.
And consider how well clouds can serve as optimized development and test environments. Because cloud-based servers can be created with perfect consistency and incredible speed, they are ideal for testing purposes, in which the number of variables should be minimized to increase the accuracy of test results. That translates into faster and better-quality software builds, and a more rapid rollout of new application-driven services.
One US-based organization has leveraged IBM's broad range of cloud expertise and deep solution portfolio to achieve just such goals. The delay for server resources fell, in their case, from 45 days to an amazingly low 20 minutes—complete with internal chargeback based on quantified cost-tracking for those resources.
Entry point #3: Cloud Service Providers
An obvious way to take advantage of the boom in cloud computing: become a cloud service provider. Once you've got an optimized, flexible, scalable cloud platform, you can monetize it by offering it to other organizations as an ideal environment for their services. This approach allows them to concentrate on their core areas of expertise, while also reducing the management complications and costs of overseeing their own IT architecture.
Here, too, however, it's essential that a cloud project support the necessary features for it to translate into real value. In addition to the typical concerns of automatic resource provisioning and monitoring, for instance, there is the question of cost-tracking. Each client's costs must be tracked in accordance with contractual terms, despite the fact that all clients are using the same physical infrastructure and sharing logical resources such as storage. Similar complexities apply to security and governance. Among other points, it will be necessary that each client's data remain completely separate from all others, just as if they had no infrastructure in common at all.
Recently, IBM worked with an organization in Vietnam that sought to become the largest software production center in the nation through optimized cloud services. Today, with IBM's help in consolidating all district/agency e-mail systems and websites to a single cloud-driven data center, that ambitious goal has been achieved.
Entry point #4: Business and IT as a Service
Finally, many organizations have found that cloud infrastructures can often help resolve specific shortcomings that have hindered business growth—sometimes by creating more value via collaborative platforms, and in other cases by addressing hidden complexities in areas such as supply chain visibility and management.
In this second category fell a US-based hardware provider with more than 5,000 hardware stores located in more than 50 countries. The supply chain challenges in such a case are clear; while best business results emerge from fulfilling unique customer demand, location by location via informed, efficient procurement and inventory control, such a distributed retail presence made that far from easy to achieve.
For these reasons, this organization selected IBM to pursue enhanced supply chain management and visibility via a cloud architecture carefully tailored to those specific needs. The payoff? A whopping 54% reduction in lead time…and back orders have plummeted by an even more impressive 85%.
1 The Essential CIO: Insights from the Global Chief Information Officer Study, IBM Corp., 2011.
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