Casa and Video is a Brazilian ecommerce site that sells a variety of household goods from air-conditioners to cameras, from bed and bath products to outdoor furniture. The company runs its entire operations on the Amazon Web Services public cloud, computing to storage and running multiple instances with load balancing.
Meanwhile, Netflix streams movies and TV programs to members across the Americas, the United Kingdom and Ireland. The company uses Amazon cloud services from many of its data centers and regions.
Netflix initially started with its own data centers but has since moved a large portion of data center operations to the public cloud. Since peak demand happens during evenings and, especially, weekends, it made a lot of sense for Netflix to pay for what it uses during peak demand times and use the Amazon regional data center nearest to the user.
These are arguably the exceptions rather than the rule for organizations using the public cloud for core operations. Data security, privacy and concerns about hosting their data possibly alongside their competitors on the public cloud have prevented many organizations from making more use of the public cloud than they would otherwise.
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At the same time, CEOs and CFOs are becoming aware of the pay-as-you-go model of the public cloud, and they are looking to CIOs and senior IT management to determine how and where their organizations can use the public cloud, even if it's not for mission critical applications.
Fortunately, a number of applications within any organization completely skirt the concerns mentioned above and are eminently suitable for public cloud implementations or pilots. These 10 apps are "public cloud ready."
1. Development and Testing
One of the first sets of applications you should consider for the public cloud is development and testing. In the absence of virtualization, application and database servers may be occupying one physical server each, with levels of utilization as low as a woeful 10 percent. Even with virtualization, servers may be underutilized, since the amount of test data in use pales in comparison to the amount of production data.
Synthetic test data may be used with these development and testing servers, but that data can be moved comfortably to the public cloud. Moreover, you will pay only when the cloud services are being used. Agile development methodologies, code branching and continuous integration, which requires many code builds and versions, all require the rapid spin up and down of a large number of application and database servers in parallel. Moving all these servers to the public clouds makes sense. Not only would you pay only when you use these public cloud services, but network latency, storage expenses and performance will also be less of a concern.
2. Development Platform Services
As organizations embrace the principle of DevOps, they increasingly use design, wireframing and prototyping, mash-up, agile project management, automated test tools and development platforms for continuous integration. As noted, these services belong in the public cloud, as that makes it easy for programmers to spin them up when needed and spin them down when not needed. Likewise, it is unlikely for these services to store any sensitive internal data on the public cloud.
3. Training Servers
Training servers have become immensely easier to set up at the beginning of training and tear down at the end. They are also likely to contain synthetic data rather than real data. In other words, they are a natural for the public cloud.
From a console, cloud provisioning tools can set up or tear down servers in the public cloud in a matter of minutes. These tools are also ripe for setting up self-service options that the training groups can handle these themselves.
4. One-time Big Data Projects
When The New York Times needed to convert its entire archives into PDF format a few years ago, the newspaper used the public cloud. Using 100 servers, the job was done in just 24 hours.
Therefore, if a one-time big data project requires 10,000 servers and the job needs to be done in a few days, or even a few hours, then the public cloud may be the right choice. It may not make sense for any organization to buy that many physical servers, even if they are virtual.
Company information, product pictures, price information, brochures and other write-occasionally, read-often websites and portals are obviously natural for the public cloud. A public cloud provider's level of security and privacy may be more than enough for information that is intended for the public.
6. Customer Relationship Management
CRM software such as Salesforce.com is already on the cloud, so customer and prospect management should work well on the public cloud. Usually they are also not that tightly integrated with other internal systems—save for email or, perhaps, sales and order management— which makes CRM systems easier to move to the public cloud than many other applications. (Whether customer master data should be so loosely coupled with other enterprise data is another matter entirely.)
7. Project Management, Expense Reporting and Time Management
As with CRM, these three mission-support (as opposed to mission-critical) applications are a good fit for the public cloud.
However, if you are concerned about the security and privacy of sales and financial data, you can confine that data to a private cloud infrastructure while project management, time management and expense reporting applications move to the public cloud. That way, the vital data is created and managed internally but becomes part of the hybrid cloud, not the private cloud. Doing so may free up a lot of servers in the private cloud for production use or for mission-critical applications.
Large companies for years have been using cloud-based email archival services to store old email messages in accordance with Sarbanes Oxley or Basel II regulations. Consumers have used cloud-based email services for several years as well. It's only a matter of time, then, that everyday enterprise email takes a step in the same direction, especially for organizations that use either internally managed Microsoft Exchange servers or the Office365 cloud offering.
9. Human Resources
Conduct an inventory of the number of mission-critical applications your organization uses compared to other apps and you may be surprised to find how many of the latter, which are only used once in a while, crowd out the production apps. Moving as many of these infrequently used apps to the public cloud frees up your private cloud resources for production use—and, since you only pay for the public cloud services that you use, this approach may reduce your overall costs. For this reason, recruitment management, relocation, benefits administration and other HR applications are natural candidates for the public cloud.
10. Cloud-Based Anti-Spam and Anti-Virus Services
Many organizations use cloud services that perform anti-spam filtering and provide anti-virus services. Even if these services are hosted by the organization internally, they can be comfortably placed in your organization's public cloud instances.
Ultimately, CEOs and CFOs would like CIOs and senior IT management to make more use of public cloud because it moves fixed costs (infrastructure) into the variable cost column (pay-as-you-go services). On the other hand, concerns about security and privacy, and a feeling of loss of control of internal data, prevent companies from moving too aggressively towards the public cloud.
Fortunately, a hard look at the nature of individual applications and what they are used for opens up a whole host of applications that skirt all of these issues. As a result, they can be moved comfortably to the public cloud, which opens up additional capacity within the private cloud for mission-critical applications and other systems that deal with sensitive data.
Nari Kannan is CEO of appsparq, a Louisville, Kentucky-based cloud and mobile applications consulting company. He has more than 20 years of IT experience, starting as a senior software engineer at Digital and subsequently serving as vice president of engineering or CTO of six Silicon Valley startups. Connect with Kannan via email.