It’s probably no surprise that cloud computing continues to grow in the overall information technology landscape. These days, it’s very rare that businesses run their own datacenters as the cost of building out and maintaining the center continues to grow. In many cases, it’s the SMB that takes the most advantage of the cloud, either running their own software on the compute instances or running SaaS applications designed for their needs. But these days, large enterprises have been shifting to the cloud and for a variety of reasons.
Cloud computing started by allowing SMBs, organizations, or individuals with a way to gain an Internet presence without having to stand up a datacenter. The earliest cloud providers were typically your Internet Service Provider who offered capacity on some of their servers or space in their racks for a fee. It was an easy way to get on the Internet without all the hassles of datacenter management. That model grew over time with companies like Rackspace building out even larger client bases that expanded the offerings.
The problem with those models was that they were still pretty labor intensive and costly, just not as costly as brick and mortar datacenters. Along came Amazon who had a lot of spare compute capacity and a history of self-service through their shopping network. Add in some technology genius like that of Werner Vogels and you have the beginnings of the new cloud model, one built on flexible, scalable services. Vogels and his team built a model that could be easily provisioned and scaled according to need, all at an affordable rate.
While the model worked well with SMBs, many larger organizations discovered it was also a way to try new technologies as well as scale certain parts of the technology infrastructure without having to make expensive capital commitments. If a technology initiative worked well, a decision could be made to bring it in house or just expand the cloud base. If it didn’t, you just shut the instances down and moved on.
Add to that the innovations cloud providers started offering such as various database technologies, improved security models, machine learning, and containerization. Cloud environments could now allow large enterprises the ability to test different technology approaches and in different stacks. They could also create hybrid models that connect the in-house datacenters with the cloud datacenters to allow even greater flexibility in delivering the applications. Using cloud technologies helps accelerate innovation by allowing a “fail fast” model of development.
But it’s important to also note that with this flexibility comes a requirement to pay more attention to how the cloud environment is implemented and managed. Too often we have seen data breaches due to improperly configured cloud configurations. Too often we have seen compromise because the application owners failed to follow the same practices in the cloud that they did in their own datacenters.
Cloud providers hand the instances to application owners in a somewhat open state. They do this to allow application owners the ability to get the cloud systems up and running as soon as possible. It’s the responsibility of the application owner to implement security controls to restrict access to the cloud instances. As a result of the recent breaches, cloud providers have been changing their delivery model to hand the instances over with some security controls in place, but it’s still up to the application owners to make sure their cloud instances are in a secure state.
Even with this risk, the cloud will continue to grow in popularity as more technology innovators rush to deliver the next big development. Organizations who haven’t embraced the cloud yet should strongly look towards testing the technology out. The sooner the waters are tested, the more prepared an organization can be when innovation is needed.
Start small, but definitely get started.