Figuring out how to take advantage of cloud computing opportunities can be a daunting task for solutions providers. You must first distinguish between the different types of cloud computing products and then identify an environment that is ripe for implementing cloud computing services. Virtualization expert Greg Schulz discusses these essential points, covers the resources needed to support a cloud computing environment and provides tips for taking advantage of cloud computing opportunities.
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Listen to Greg Schulz's answers to other frequently asked questions about cloud-based computing applications and services in an FAQ podcast, or read a transcribed version.
• What distinguishes a cloud computing environment from a traditional or virtualized IT environment, and are the needs any different?
• What resources are needed for supporting and sustaining cloud computing environments?
• What cloud computing opportunities are there for solutions providers?
• How can a channel organization best use cloud computing opportunities, resources or services to its advantage?
• More on cloud computing services opportunities
• About the expert
To the user or consumer of IT services, the differences can be very subtle. As a provider, and depending on your definition of cloud computing or cloud-based services, the differences can be minimal or extreme.
The cloud can mean many different things, and that is where it can become confusing. It can mean a service -- such as delivering Software as a Service (SaaS), like Salesforce.com, Concur Expense or Amazon's S3 and E2 -- or storage and application hosting, like what Google Apps does. Clouds can be public or private, a product or a service or an architecture. Thus it's important to be able to recognize the different types of cloud computing offerings, understand what they mean and identify the opportunities they present.
Just like in traditional or virtualized environments, providers of cloud computing services, SaaS or storage as a service all require physical servers, storage, data and I/O networks. They also need all of the associated software and management tools, not to mention a physical facility to serve as a habitat for the various technologies.
Tools for virtualization, backup and data protection, file and data management, security, resource usage and accounting are all needed -- unless the cloud or managed service providers have built their own internal proprietary tools.
Certain things can differentiate a cloud computing environment, such as the types of services offered and their business models. For example, are public or private clouds being provided? Are the services for a particular application or business functionality? Or do the services simply offer a place to park data online (whether for backup, business continuity and disaster recovery, availability or archiving purposes)?
Cost can be a major driver for some clouds, particularly for providers that are trying to compete in the low-cost realm. Those organizations will be looking for very affordable technologies or technologies that enable improved management and operating efficiency.
Solutions providers can take advantage of cloud computing opportunities by aligning and positioning service offerings to meet the needs and requirements of various cloud and SaaS users. In many respects, the opportunities for solutions providers are similar to those of traditional IT organizations. Prospects exist in positioning hardware, including servers, storage and I/O networking products and services, with the associated software and management tools. The size, scope and business model of different service providers are varying factors. Some service providers are looking for technologies based on the lowest price, so they can use their own internally developed tools and open software to gain an advantage.
Provide your traditional customers with hosting, managed backup, business continuity, disaster recovery, archiving and online-tiered storage to complement what they are already doing. Position cloud computing offerings as another tier of IT resources to complement a tiered server, tiered storage, tiered network and access and tiered data protection model in order to align the applicable technology to the desired (or required) service level and cost point.
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Greg Schulz is founder of The StorageIO Group, an IT consulting firm. He has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant and capacity planner for various IT organizations and also for several vendors before joining an analyst firm and later forming StorageIO. In addition, Schulz is a prolific writer, blogger and speaker who regularly appears at conferences and other events around the world. He is the author of The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier). Learn more at www.storageio.com or on twitter @storageio.