Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Talking 'Mission Critical' Enterprise Clouds

I'll tell you one thing, since joining Virtustream a few weeks ago I've heard a certain phrase thrown around a lot, one the I admit I have long avoided when discussing cloud computing. The term is "Enterprise Cloud" and it's at the heart of our strategy. Hey we even call our cloud an "enterprise cloud platform". So what makes this more enterprise than others cloud platforms and more importantly why does it even matter?

First let's look at the broader market, it's true the largest players are moving to the cloud, generally speaking this has been a lower level entry point. A kind of ground up approach to IT where the developer with a particular need goes out and finds a solution to his or her problem set. More recently the term "Shadow IT" has been used to describe this type of usage model whereby IT systems and IT solutions are built and used inside organizations without organizational approval. Allowing developers the freedom to create is often credited as the central method of innovation within IT today.

Innovation aside, it's also often the central reason applications fail. Things like lack of oversight, planning, documentation and just generally a seat of your paints approach to application dev and deployment. Not exactly the kind of approach larger businesses (AKA The Enterprise) like to see within the more important parts of their business IT orgs.

So back to what the heck is an enterprise cloud? I suppose one could say it's a cloud platform or service that takes the the particular needs of a larger enterprise customer into consideration. Moreover, one that supports mission-critical processes. Yes, Mission Critical. What? Ok, back to wikipedia.
  • Mission critical refers to any factor of a system (equipment, process, procedure, software, etc.) whose failure will result in the failure of business operations. That is, it is critical to the organization's 'mission'.
I'm not going to go out and say that if a small businesses website, application or what have you fails it's less important, it's obviously just as important as a larger enterprise's infrastructure. The key difference is the amount at stake. Yes, cash money, baby. In a public company for instance if a mission critical application fails not only could this result in massive problems both human and economic, it could result in signicant legal and regulatory problems as well. Where if you're iPhone app stops working, sure your customers are pissed, but unlikely to result in government intervention via new policies and even potentially new laws. I suppose What I'm saying is there just more at stake for a so called enterprise customer.

In a recent Virtustream customer announcement, Steve Stone, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Morris Communications, a media company based in Augusta, Ga. that owns and operates 12 daily newspapers said it well. “We turned to Virtustream because they offer the only enterprise cloud platform that features the security and availability of a private cloud and the cost efficiencies of a public cloud—in fact they are the only vendor we could find with true consumption-based pricing. Virtustream xStream delivered superior performance, and the company has the in-house managed services expertise to advise and execute on the entire migration process.”

Ok, press fluff aside, they needed a full service cloud platform, both on premise (private), as well as off premise (public) and the service to help in the transition from the old tactics and approaches to the new more nimble architecture that a cloud centric environment enables.

At the end of the day what being enterprise ready means is taking into consideration the demands, processes and unique requirement of an enterprise customer. For an enterprise looking at moving from a traditional on premise approach to a mission critical cloud infrastructure, I've come to realize that leveraging their existing in house experience while also realizing the increased economic benefits of using the cloud is a central part of the rationale for making the move to cloud computing. Success means having enterprise customers who can easily see these benefits via a custom suite of tools and services, all the while keeping the ability to use the technology, skills and approaches that have made them successful in the first place. Processes, methods and expertise that has in many cases taken decades to perfect. In essence allowing them to gracefully take a leap forward into the cloud while keeping one foot on the ground.

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