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Getting Started with Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a big economic, green and scalable gift to organizations around the globe

Early Bird at Cloud Expo

Cloud computing is a big economic, green and scalable gift to organizations around the globe. The New Year offers a great opportunity to re-think your IT strategy and see how the cloud can benefit your organization.

The day when IT leaders no longer have to worry about expensive internal data centers is fast becoming reality. The cloud allows you to rent your infrastructure, your platform, and/or your software. This simple pay-as-you-go cost model offers greater scalability and flexibility, and is very similar to the subscription based software model employed by open source companies.

The Cloud is Economical
In the past, large up-front investments were required to start IT projects. Organizations had to buy the hardware and infrastructure, along with hefty upfront licensing fees to proprietary software vendors. This upfront investment was capital expenditure that would often require board approval. As a result many proof-of-concepts died before they got started.

Today, the simple pay-as-you-go and subscription model allows your IT spend to become a variable cost, or operational expenditure. Proof-of-concepts can be started quickly and cheaply, enabling organizations to innovate faster with less risk.

At Ingres, we are dedicated to open source and cloud solutions wherever we can use it. As our company grows, we can afford to consume more. And when bad times hit, as they inevitably do, we can scale back our usage and pay less. Any model that doesn't allow you to pay less when you need less is old, broken and needs to be thrown out.

The Cloud is Green
When it comes to energy, internal data centers eat power like candy. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 1.5 percent of all energy produced in the United States goes to feeding our data centers.  This demand on our nation's power grid will grow, as long-term studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that data center power usage doubled between 2000 and 2006, and is projected to double again by 2011. Once we consolidate computing power with outside cloud providers, this number is likely to take a nose-dive as external data centers focus on running the most energy efficient cloud centers.

Soon we will be able to order the capacity to do our computing tasks online and never have to go through the process of building our own data centers again. We will no longer need to make hundreds of decisions about expensive power hungry air conditioning systems, power generation systems, racks, wirings, cables, networks and every other kind of tiresome decision that goes into building and managing data centers. The focus will shift to providing the ultimate custom information management solutions, and leave data centers to the experts.

The Cloud is Scalable
You can expand or contract the demand of computing resources on the cloud at any given moment. Before you launch a solution, you don't always know what the hit rate will be. The elasticity of the cloud means you no longer have to pay for additional services that are not being used. Likewise, if you reach capacity you can buy additional services in minutes to cope with demand. Today, when you visit Amazon to make a purchase, it doesn't matter if there is just one person or thousands on the same page as you, you'll get the same computing performance.

The Cloud is Coming
Right now, cloud computing is still in the early adopter phase, but it is and will continue to move into mainstream adoption. We are still figuring out how the cloud can best help our business goals. It is not always comfortable, and it is not always easy. When it comes to the cloud, it is important to cast a wary eye, particularly around security issues.  Nonetheless, the era of the cloud is upon us, and the business benefits are undeniable.

Our company is working with several cloud specialists. In Australia, for instance, we are privileged to work with cloud computing specialist Base2Services. Their solutions are 100 percent open source, open standards, and hosted in cloud environments such as Amazon EC2. As Arthur Marinis, Base2Services CEO says, "Building on the cloud means lower infrastructure costs, greater scalability and lower support costs for our customers. Building on open source technologies such as Ingres, RHEL and JBoss means lower licensing costs for our customers. Building with open standards means better integration, and if any software vendors try to take a bigger slice of the cloud pie, we have the flexibility to swap them out. Overall, the cloud is more cost effective, and lowers the implementation and ongoing costs, and our customers like that." The cloud offers us all a tremendous opportunity.

Getting Started with the Cloud
The first cloud project at Ingres is moving Ingres' Business Intelligence (BI) and business analytics platforms that are built with Jaspersoft on top of Ingres Database, into the cloud. As far as best uses at our company, we've seen some wonderful performance metrics out of Amazon EC2 and now we are starting to go to the next phase of looking at how to design and take advantage of elasticity.

It allows us to get incredible leverage out of applications and infrastructure that are shared and brings wonderful value to IT. Think of the R&D dollars that are lost everyday when large, complex business applications are built and distributed to thousands upon thousands of customers that must be tuned and patched and run on all these different environments. Now there is just one environment.

The best advice we can offer to all IT executives today: look across your application portfolio and projects. Identify projects which are in process, or about to be in process. Were you planning on using proprietary software? Experiment and try something new. Switch to open source software and save on huge upfront license fees. Switch to variable compute resources in the cloud, and see it is appropriate for that project. Then, share your tales with others. What's working? What's not working?  We look forward to connecting with many others up in the clouds.

More Stories By Deb Woods

Deb Woods is vice president of product management at Ingres, a leading open source database company. Prior to Ingres, she was vice president of product management at Red Hat. She is active in the open source community and sits on the Open Solutions Alliance board of directors. Deb holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.

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