Sunday, October 18, 2009

If You Can’t Follow the Moon Then Live in the Cloud

In the July 26 post to this blog I discussed the “follow the moon” strategy being implemented by some data operators. As beneficial as the moon strategy may be, however, it is only viable for organizations which possess both the need and capacitiy for such a distributed infrastructure. Most companies do not fall into that category. What then is a small to mid-size organization to do by way of providing needed computing capacity and application diversity while still supporting a green data initiative? One answer is cloud computing. Reduced to its basics, cloud computing is an infrastructure in which applications and their attendant servers belong to someone else. This “software as a service” (SaaS) approach allows you to access applications that are held remotely while the resulting files are maintained locally. Your subscription fee for the service then pays for not only the application license but also your proscribed share of development and operating costs.

David Bradshaw, International Data Corporation research manager for European software as a service, says "… it is clear that SaaS has become accepted by the mainstream of user organizations around Europe. This will result in continued strong growth, making SaaS a rising star in a very largely depressed European software market." He goes on to note that that the overall European SaaS market will grow from €237 million in 2004 to a projected €6,005 million in 2013 (as of April 2009).

Here in the U.S. we see a similar pattern. One noteable market segment that is shifting to cloud computing is the education sector. In some cases entire college districts or systems are converting to a cloud architecture, allowing the system or students to purchase netbook computers at a typical cost of $200 USD instead of something ten times that amount. This is a good example of a disbursed enterprise with diverse computing needs. The cloud solution allows standardization on an affordable computing platform with access to a wide array of software.

In a small business context the solution may be as simple as Google Apps, Yahoo’s Zimbra or one of the other products of similar ilk. Again, this allows you access to a wide variety of software at a fraction of the cost of owning the software, shifts responsibility for software updates and maintenance to the provider, and allows you the option of downsizing the cost of your computing hardware.

Following the moon isn’t for everybody and neither is cloud computing, but the cloud offers substantial benefit to a much wider set of enterprises. Software diversity, cost avoidance, time saved supporting your software and other advantages are all make the cloud an attractive solution.

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