While most people understand cloud computing, and perhaps understand enterprise architecture, few have made the links to understand the fit. If you don’t understand where cloud computing meets your enterprise, and how each can benefit from the other, it’s unlikely the enterprise will realize the value of cloud computing, including how cloud computing can enhance any number of applications such as ecommerce.
Backing up a bit, cloud computing is any IT resource, including storage, database, application development, application services, etc., that exists outside of the firewall that may be leveraged by enterprise IT over the Internet. The core idea behind cloud computing is that it’s much cheaper to leverage these resources as-a-service, paying as you go and as you need them, rather than buying more hardware and software for the data center. There are other advantages as well, including elasticity, or the ability to rapidly scale up cloud computing-based systems, rapid provisioning of cloud computing assets, such as storage and database services, and a much more cost efficient model than on-premise systems.
Thus, cloud computing allows you to expand and contract your costs in direct proportion to your needs. Moreover, it shifts some of the risk around expanding your IT resources from the enterprise to the cloud computing provider. Also, cloud computing abstracts those who use the cloud computing-delivered IT resource from the management of those resources.
But how do you manage cloud computing assets? Traditional enterprise architecture concepts and best practices are important to cloud computing for a few key reasons:
First, you need enterprise architecture to deal with the proper formation of the information systems using mechanisms that make them work and play well together, inside and outside of the enterprise. Cloud computing becomes part of the enterprise, in essence, even though cloud computing assets are actually shared with other independent organizations.
Second, in order to take advantage of cloud computing, you need to have interfaces and architectures that can reach out and touch cloud computing resources. While many believe they can simply create quick and dirty links between core enterprise information systems and cloud computing resources, the fact of the matter is that you really need a cloud-compatible architecture inside of the enterprise to make the most of cloud computing. What I’m seeing today are organizations that look at cloud computing as a mechanism to provide a quick tactical advantage. While that will work in some cases, a deep architectural context of cloud computing is always going to be the best long term approach.
Finally, you need some sort of architectural discipline with guiding principles to document and organize your architecture. Most have ignored this over the past several years to focus on ad-hoc hype-driven stuff, which I call “management-by-magazine.” We need to get back to leveraging the best solution for the problem, and a holistic enterprise architecture is a good approach for doing that.
This post was contributed by guest columnist David Linthicum. David is a cloud computing and SOA expert and author of several books on Information Technology.