Cloud is the most discussed topic today in IT and business and for good reason – it brings a whole new level of flexibility to enterprises. While it may seem that the cloud is a standalone element in technology infrastructure, it is actually compromised of all the four essential elements of IT: applications, compute, networking, and storage.

"Cloud is the most discussed topic today in IT and business and for good reason – it brings a whole new level of flexibility to enterprises."

According to IDC, the cloud products and services market is projected to grow to $56 billion dollars by 2014 [IDC Predictions 2012: Competing for 2020]. This rapid growth is linked to the rising trends of Software as a Service (SaaS), consumerization, and Bring your own Device (BYOD). Because of these trends, applications and their composition now drive the configuration of the other essential elements. Users today are doing most of their work on smaller systems and devices, so the applications on devices are smaller, while the heavier parts of the applications are getting larger.

As a result, compute, networking, and storage are also getting larger, in order to support cloud architectures;larger as resources are centralized, and larger given workloads and data sets are growing. New initiatives like Big Data are possible with centralization, and grow in value with increased workload and data that a business can harness. Clouds are on the move.

Getting Bigger and Faster without Actually Getting Bigger

Meeting growing demands is very challenging when it comes to cloud architectures. Applications and their users can simply create more workload and data than in traditional architectures. Cloud proves the corollary of Parkinson’s Law related to computing as true; data expands to fill the space available for storage. Big operators like Amazon and Google handle IT and infrastructure differently, as compared to popular models of the late 20th century, setting the pace for the movement of architecture.

“Software-Defined” is currently a popular term, roughly defined as infrastructure that is managed and automated by intelligent software rather than hardware. Through software, the essential elements of infrastructure can be virtualized, enabling infrastructure to be more adaptable and flexible. The operating efficiency that is possible through automation and orchestration with the cloud is a major factor in enabling growth, while reducing costs.

Growing compute, networking and storage have limitations when using traditional building blocks, and beyond the technical constraints, it can also become a very expensive model. Big operators use commodity hardware, which means dramatically lower server costs and no markupof hard drives. A cloud built with commodity building blocks can easily scale, while keeping costs low.

Owning and Controlling the Movement of Elements

Public cloud services have compelling value - they enable rapid deployment, flexible scale, and good resiliency. Applications today and in the future need these capabilities, especially as organizations deal with Big Data, SaaS applications, and retention requirements. Public cloud is the fastest way to deploy, and the most flexible when accommodating extraordinary spikes in demand.

The primary concerns of public cloud storage are control and ownership, particularly in light of cloud storage providers shutting down, government access to data, and service outages of top cloud service providers. The larger the data in the public cloud, the more difficult and time consuming it is to recover or move. While it is not an immediate effect, cost becomes a concern for businesses operating in the public cloud, as they grow and support sustained workloads at scale.

With traditional infrastructure, IT had complete control and ownership. Resiliency was good but not always across multiple datacenters, requiring complex and costly configurations. These are some of the reasons why private cloud infrastructure is becoming a viable alternative, combining the scalability, flexibility and cost advantages of the public cloud model, while meeting the requirement for control and ownership that a lot of organizations prefer.

Private cloud enables organizations to leverage the same cost effectiveness of commodity hardware and deliver the same application experience provided by the public cloud, including easy distribution and access across datacenters. The cloud is here and it is both growing and rapidly maturing.

Users have preferences when it comes to consumption of services, and businesses want to serve these needs. The number of consumers is increasing, while the devices most used are decreasing in size. Cloud infrastructure is growing to deal with this increase in users and their needs.

Businesses that are interested in maintaining control and ownership of applications and data should be able to do so, while supporting the movement of the cloud. As is with any change in technology, new models for compute, networking, and storage are not yet fully developed; however, providers are rapidly innovating to create the building blocks businesses will need to own and operate their clouds.