A practical look at cloud computing

By Robert Gosling*
Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

Lower costs, greater flexibility and access to resources on demand: it’s no wonder cloud computing is attracting attention. Oracle’s Robert Gosling, Vice President of Technology Sales, Oracle ANZ, discusses the ways in which organisations can take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing while mitigating risks around security, compliance and quality of service.

Cloud computing has gained traction with an increasing number of organisations in the past few years. The ability to access a shared pool of computing resources on demand is proving highly attractive to cash-strapped IT departments that are under pressure to deliver better services at lower cost.

The appeal of cloud computing is its promise to deliver agility and real cost savings. It allows organisations to rapidly access computing resources when they are needed, often in a self-service and pay-per-use model. These computing resources can expand and contract with the natural ebb and flow of the business cycle, eliminating the need to over-invest in excess capacity.

The building blocks of cloud computing are rooted in hardware and software architectures that enable resource sharing, such as clustering, virtualisation and dynamic provisioning. Cloud is the evolution of several proven and mature technologies: grid computing, virtualisation, shared services and management systems. Many data centres already deploy these capabilities and are extending them to the cloud model by adding self-service, auto-scaling and chargeback.

Oracle offers one of the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of grid computing technologies from applications to disk that can help corporate data centres evolve to become private cloud service providers, delivering secure, high-quality IT services that can be easily scaled and which comply with organisational and regulatory policies.

Public, private and hybrid clouds

Cloud computing is typically divided into three levels of service offerings: software as a service (SaaS), where complete applications are delivered as services to end users; platform as a service, where application development and the deployment platform are delivered as a service; and infrastructure as a service, where server, storage and network hardware and associated operating system and virtualisation software are delivered as a service.

These services can be provided via public, private or hybrid clouds. In a public cloud, multiple customers share computing resources provided by a service provider. Customers are able to access those resources very rapidly and pay for only the resources used as an operating expense. This model offers elastic scaling, so resources can be ratcheted up when needed and scaled back down when they are no longer required. Although public clouds provide compelling advantages, there are concerns about security, compliance and quality of service. Since data is hosted by a third party, customers are trusting the service provider to keep the data safe from loss or improper access, to comply with regulations for storage and locality of data and to deliver low-latency, highly available service over the network.

In a private cloud, the computing resources are for the exclusive use of a single organisation and are controlled by the enterprise. Private clouds are typically implemented in the organisation’s data centre and managed by internal resources but they may also be managed by a service provider, in which case they are known as virtual private clouds. The main benefit of this model is the organisation remains in control of security, compliance and quality of service.

A hybrid cloud is one that spans both public and private clouds for a single application. It requires interoperability across clouds and the ability to manage across both in a unified way. It allows the enterprise to run the steady state workload in a private cloud and ‘cloudburst’ to a public cloud for peaks, then return that capacity back to the public pool when it is no longer needed.

Evolving to the cloud

There are several things to bear in mind when moving to a cloud model, including the characteristics of specific clouds and the organisational and cultural issues that might become obstacles to the adoption of future architectures.

An enterprise architecture framework is valuable to evaluate and design a cloud infrastructure that delivers on current and future business goals. Such a framework will help architects define the architectural vision, analyse the systems and technical architecture designs and incorporate migration planning, governance, and change management into the overall plan.

At Oracle, we provide technology to help customers build private clouds as well as run Oracle in public clouds. We also offer several applications, such as Oracle CRM On Demand, as SaaS services and provide Oracle technology to enable other cloud service providers.

* Robert Gosling is Vice President of Technology Sales, Oracle Australia and New Zealand

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