Understanding Cloud Computing
Most people and professional organizations, now agree that the cloud has become a core element of any technology strategy. Without a doubt, in the last few years we have seen the conversation around cloud adoption move from “if” to “when.” Now and into the future, the cloud and cloud computing have become a fact of life. With that being said, it remains one of the most disruptive changes in computing in years, and it is worth reviewing what makes the cloud so compelling to enterprise IT. Its value proposition is many-faceted, ranging from significant cost savings over a traditional datacenter approach to the ability to quickly build robust, resilient applications that can scale up as traffic spikes and scale down as needed. In this blog, we’ll have a higher level discussion on Azure and scalability and with any luck answer the “so what” of Azure and cloud services.
With cloud computing, organizations pay for what they use, or another way to look at it is a pay-as-you-go model. If demand decreases and you no longer need capacity or those specific services, you can turn off systems and you are not charged. This operational model is drastically different than the traditional model of enterprise computing, which is a capital-intensive function, requiring expensive datacenters, utilities, onsite infrastructure, servers, networks, storage, and 24×7 operations staff, etc. For most companies, maintaining a large IT presence in this model implies large capital expenditures and a significant amount of upfront costs. When you purchase the hardware and the software, they become yours in every sense of the word. Operations staffs are responsible for hardware refreshes, networks, backups, updates for operating systems, and upgrades to the system software and applications. The cloud, being subscription-based, is an operating expense model. In the cloud, workloads are seen as services which customers are billed a monthly charge. Like other such services, it is metered by usage. The more compute, network, and storage resources you use, the higher your bill. On the other hand, the less you use, the less you are charged.
Cloud Computing with Microsoft Azure
Now that we have a clear understanding of cloud economics, let’s apply this to Microsoft Azure. To start, what is Azure? Providing a wide range of different services, Azure lets you build, deploy, and manage solutions for almost any purpose that fits your organization’s needs. Whether you’re a large enterprise spanning several continents needing to run server workloads or a small business wanting a robust and scalable storage solution, Azure can provide a platform for building applications that can leverage the cloud to meet the needs of your business. From what I’ve found, organizations both large and small generally consider moving to the cloud for one of three reasons: speed, scale, and cost—both up front and recurring.
Microsoft Azure is quicker to deploy for two reasons. First, you don’t have to deploy, configure, and maintain hardware, storage, and networking infrastructure. Instead, Azure will utilize virtual infrastructure provided to you by Microsoft in Microsoft’s hosted cloud. The second reason cloud- and Azure-based applications can be faster to deploy has to do with how applications are developed. Rather than paying for lab time and consulting services for hardware to be deployed properly, everything is handled virtually.
The second reason organizations typically move to Azure cloud services is scale. Azure scales quickly because the services are pooled by Microsoft and can be provisioned to your business as needs arise. Does your application need more compute resources to meet increasing demand from customers? Running it in the cloud can help keep your customers happy. Does a downturn in the market mean that you don’t need all that compute capacity Azure is providing for your applications? Just scale down how much of your Azure compute capacity you are using.
The third and final reason (and maybe the most important) is cost. Almost every organization that I speak with that is already on Azure or in the cloud exclusively made the final decision based on cost. They make the move because the cost of running their business applications in the cloud can be significantly lower than running them on-premises. By utilizing a pay-for-what-you-use model for cloud services, your business only pays for the resources that you actually consume. The ability to rapidly and easily scale capacity up or down that the cloud offers makes this approach possible and can help organizations save money.
Matt Dixon, PEI