Expanding Data Centers to the Cloud Offers More Than Pie in the Sky Benefits
Cloud services are another way to expand data center capabilities. The major advantage of this form of expansion is that the organization pays only for access to the services it needs to meet its business objectives, not for ownership of capital assets. The approach offers an immediate, scalable solution for a monthly or annual fee.
Although cloud services are touted as a new concept, they have actually been available for more than 50 years under different terms, including time sharing and partitioning. Today, cloud services take three major forms: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS):
- SaaS is the most popular form of cloud services. A service provider offers software to support the end user's business. The end user can configure the software to suit their needs, although they cannot change or modify it.
- PaaS offers a platform to clients for various purposes. For example, Microsoft Windows Azure offers a platform for developers to build, test and host applications that can be accessed by the end users.
- IaaS offers infrastructure on demand ranging from storage servers to applications to operating systems. For example, Microsoft Office 365 provides applications and storage space. IaaS enables an organization to save on the capital costs, space and staff it takes to set up and maintain in-house infrastructure.
Back to the Business Case
When additional data center capacity is needed to meet business objectives, an enterprise may choose existing site expansion, co-location or cloud services. In some cases, it may leverage all of these approaches to align IT services with business requirements to deliver maximum value.
How can an enterprise identify the optimal technology solution with the best return on investment? If a structured review of the options indicates that more than one type of solution is viable, then the decision will hinge on business analysis. Apply core financial analysis and weigh the payback period, net present value and internal rate of return of each option. At the end of the day, the technology solution must support the business.
Lee Kirby is the Seattle-based vice president of the consulting services group in the mission critical center of Skanska USA. Based in New York, the Mission Critical Center specializes in new construction, facilities operations, risk management and ITIL enterprise solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.