Let’s face facts: if the cloud can’t deliver plenty of useful, secure, speedy and easy-to-use business applications, then it’s never going to take off beyond a niche audience. No-one wants to work with unreliable applications that disappear every time there’s a spike in the number of users, but at the moment that’s sadly all that many application providers are going to be able to deliver.
The problem is that their infrastructure simply isn’t designed to deal with the huge volumes of traffic that the cloud will bring. And as more businesses host their applications online, demand is growing for web service providers and hosters to help them scale to this new challenge without breaking the bank.
This is not as easy as it may sound, not least because many of the traditional hardware solutions available such as load balancers can cost a huge amount up front, as well as taking up significant time and additional costs in terms of maintenance and upgrades.
What we really need to do to get our heads – and our businesses – around cloud, is find a new way of approaching application delivery. We need to learn from the principles behind cloud in order to be able to get to grips with it, and what this boils down to is learning to love flexibility.
The joy of cloud is that it is dynamic. Applications hosted in the cloud can be accessed on demand, scaled up or down as required, and as a result are more cost-effective and easy to manage. So if this model is so beneficial to the end-user, why not use exactly the same model when delivering services to the companies hosting these apps?
The answer is Service Provider Licence Agreements (SPLAs). Translated into the world of cloud, a SPLA allows service providers to ‘rent’ the systems their customers need according to demand – so they can turn them on and off as required without huge capital outlay on hardware and infrastructure. It also makes the delivery of the highest quality applications via the cloud a real possibility for smaller companies for whom it would otherwise have been too costly or too time-intensive. And what this means, of course, is that the cloud gets the business applications it needs to thrive.
Sounds simple – and it is. Cloud is more than a technology – it’s a state of mind.
This was first published in May 2009