The New Business Paradigm—Cloud Networking

The concept of cloud networking is not new. It is even now several decades old. However, cloud networking assumes new avatars as users innovate and exploit the power of cloud networking in new ways. Today businesses are using cloud networking to drive down costs and improve productivity in ways that was never imagined before. Cloud service providers are eager to woo customers by adding new and differentiated features to their cloud offerings. Cloud networking is fast becoming the new business paradigm.

From the perspective of the organisation, cloud computing is the roadmap of the future. As organisations become more and more mobile and BYOD policies are being adopted, platform independence and multiple device connectivity are gaining prominence in organisational decision making. IT decisions today are being made factoring in the power of the cloud and taking into consideration the possibility that employees and branches of the organisation may want to login to a centralised enterprise database. Applications that were custom made for on-premise use are being retired in large numbers to give way to applications that can be deployed over the cloud and accessed by individuals working from the other side of the globe.

“As an interesting side note, IDC forecast that worldwide spending on public IT cloud services will be around $40 million by 2012. This figure has been exceeded and is fast approaching the predicted figure of $100 billion for 2016. The growth rate for cloud applications today stands at 24.6%. Gartner’s IT spending survey report for SaaS usage matches IDCs.”

Cloud service providers eager to market their services are anxious to still any security and privacy fears that may be voiced. Service providers want to reach out to customers and assure them that cloud networking is entirely safe and secure and is the right way to go. They are assuring their customers through websites, blogs; discussion forums; social media sites and even offering trial runs of their software to bolster this assurance and attract customers to their unique products. They guarantee high availability, scalability, flexibility and security. Elaborate SLAs testify to their commitments and attention is drawn to their reputation as cloud service providers par excellence.

In short, cloud networking is changing our world. It is transforming business and globalising even small and medium businesses.

Duplication and De-duplication

Organisational databases are not created by a single individual with a single access device. These databases grow and the growth is fed by multiple users inputting data from multiple devices from diverse locations. The data is often shared across devices by users attempting to collaborate. As a result, data is downloaded and stored on local devices for instant access and use. This results in disorganised duplication of same, similar or slightly modified version of the information and storage of such data at multiple locations.

The IT Administrator entrusted with the task of consolidation backup and recovery of information for the organisation is often flummoxed by the infinite number of times a single piece of information is duplicated across the organisation. If each piece of information is to be checked for duplication manually and then dropped into the backup basket, the task will be gruelling to say the least and will assume nightmarish proportions for the individual over a period of time. De-duplication technologies are used to automate the task of identifying and eliminating duplicates of information during the process of consolidation.

Most cloud backup and recovery software come with integrated de-duplication technologies. The IT Administrator has to begin the process of consolidation by identifying a primary backup set for seeding the backup repository. Each piece of information is encoded with a hash algorithm that is unique to the file/folder or block of information seeded. Backup of data from every other device connecting to the enterprise network is also encoded with the hash algorithm and hash algorithms are compared for identifying any duplicate information that may exist in the current backup set. All duplicates are then eliminated and references to the original information is stored in place of the duplicates in case the data has to be recovered to a new device with all duplicates intact.

De-duplication is often described as a compression function. This is because the removal of data compresses the volume of information that is ultimately stored in the cloud database. Moreover, compression functions in a sense remove duplicates of information at granular levels within the file or folder. For instance compression removes all the spaces between words to reduce the amount of space that is occupied by the data in the storage repository. However, the two functions differ from each other in purpose and scope. De-duplication attempts to remove duplicates of information to rationalise the data stored in the database. Compression is purely a functionality used to save on space. The process of de-duplication and compression will have to be reversed at the time of recovery, in order to obtain the complete data set from the storage.

Creating High Capacity Networks with Almost No Investment

It is an undeniable fact that organisations that are growing will experience degradation of network response times. More and more people logging in from more locations, will jam the works and create intolerable wait times for everyone. The most urgent need will be to increase capacity, bandwidth and invest in capital goods that the organisation can ill afford. Managements may baulk at the thought but will have to give “capacity increase” a serious consideration as it will have a direct or indirect effect on the bottom line. The existence of the business may depend on it. They may be forced to divert funds from other mission critical activities to augment their network.

What if, bandwidth and capacity can be increased with little or no investment? The question will be impossible to ignore? If you had been asked this question a decade or two ago, you would have deemed the questioner a lunatic or an ill-informed idiot. You would not have believed that it is possible to create high capacity networks with little or no investment. You would have been incredulous. Today, the statement will invoke very little surprise. Well, the cloud offers a pay as you go model that allows you to increase or decrease the amount of bandwidth and capacity you use in synchronisation with the peaks and troughs of your business. Cloud computing has made “high capacity network” a reality for even small and medium enterprises that are strapped for funds.

Cloud services offer a number of different options to end users. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) subscribers can requisition for and obtain additional infrastructure from third parties who make infrastructure provisioning their business. Platform as a Service (PaaS), aims to provide customers with the platforms and space they require for developing their custom applications. Software as a service (SaaS) allows organisations save on costs of deploying and licensing on standard applications that may be used regularly by their employees within the organisation. Backup and recovery is made simple with backup, recovery and disaster management being offered as part of the subscription package.

The use of any or all of the above services is charged on usage basis and can be treated as operational expenses by accounting buffs. All that the organisation needs to invest in is—a high speed Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to meet their current needs! High capacity networks can slide into place with a mere subscription to a cloud service.

What is Your Backup and Recovery ROI?

The bottom line is profit. No organisation can afford to have a backup and recovery system that consumes more resources than it can afford. So, calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) on backup and recovery is a business imperative. But, how does one calculate the ROI? Here is a glimpse into factors that go into the calculation of the ROI on digital assets.

Start with the available data management technologies. Remember, the cost of re-engineering using similar new or existing technologies will be enormous when compared with the cost of using the newer technologies that are available in the market. For instance, the cloud will present a more cost effective method of backup and recovery when compared to offline backup, tape backup, and recovery methods. The difference between what you will invest on offline technologies and online backup and recovery technologies is the first low hanging fruit you can harvest!

Unlike other physical assets, data is an asset that has peculiar characteristics. A data asset must be accessible to your employees anywhere, anytime and on any device to be meaningful. The asset, consequently, tends to get distributed, replicated, duplicated and stored on multiple devices across the enterprise. The vulnerability of the asset increases in proportion to the number of times it is replicated and duplicated. Security systems for protecting this asset acts as a drain on the resources. Consolidation of data into a single data repository that can be centrally protected and universally accessed makes a lot of business sense. Costs can be brought down, while security need not be compromised and access need not be denied. Productivity can be maintained or even enhanced as more and more mobile workforces are given access to the data on the go.

Regulatory compliance is a major consideration in the management of data assets. Distributed data with minimal security results in a number of compliance headaches. Centralised data and data management systems ensures controls, data consistency across the organisation, and facilitates compliance. Risks of non-compliance are significantly reduced and hard dollar costs to the company can be avoided.

Digital assets must be hedged against disaster. Disaster recovery is an expensive proposition. It is often ignored or neglected for this reason. However, disaster recovery is automatic and part of the packaging for cloud offerings. No specialised efforts are required and no separate teams need to be deployed for managing and maintaining disaster recovery protocols (if any) that may be instituted. The actual exercise of replicating information and keeping it highly available for business use is abstracted to the cloud service provider. All this reduces costs and increases profitability of the digital asset.

Cloud Based Data Vs. Unmanaged Local Data – Which One is Insecure?

Did you know that some organisations collect informational data whenever and wherever? But, in most cases, the collected data just sits idle. You might wander why the very data that they put a lot of energy to collect simply sits idle – this is due to lack of data management. This leads to unmanaged data and might prove to be costly.

Unmanaged data causes a lot of headaches. In fact, it is a complete waste of organisational resources. It can cause decision makers to make mistakes if unmanaged data is used, resulting in huge consequences. Therefore, collected data must be well managed, neatly organised, and used accurately.

The cloud offers reliable technologies for easy data management. Data that is well organised in the cloud can benefit organisations in three ways:

Compliance: if data is properly managed, it becomes legally compliant. E-discovery for legal purposes, and data protection will become very easy if data is managed well. As a result, This short and long run savings will be realised.

Efficiency: if data is organised, then its management becomes easier and automatic. As a result, less resources could be assigned for data management.

Profitability: organised data can help reveal useful data and bring it to the forefront, showing information about products and leads. Companies tracking information about product opportunities and leads can benefit by taking action promptly and capturing the customer. This can be done at the moment when the need is the greatest.

Cloud computing contributes greatly to data management. First, it removes data silos. Cloud backup and storage is used to direct organised data to the cloud, allowing consolidation and organisation. As a result of the cloud usage, data can be organised in a single database.

With unstructured data, the organisation has no idea what is being leaked and who is doing the leaking or who is harvesting the data from their systems! Data sent to cloud repositories is encrypted. The encryption key is available only with the data administrator of the organisation. Anyone attempting to access the cloud database without appropriate authorisation is tracked, logged and can be instantly located. Even when the data access attempt has been successful, the encryption will deprive them of the pleasures of being able to gain the access.

As you can understand from this discussion, it is actually costly and disastrous to have unstructured data in your organisation than having it in the cloud.

Black Swan Events and Cloud Computing

Planners, strategists and consultants are talking about black swan events. What is a black swan event? These are events that occur rarely, but create serious consequences to the organisation. Very little is known about these events as they occur rarely, and as a result, preparing to meet the contingencies resulting from this type of event is very difficult. Yet, these events (For instance, the 9/11 event or the rise of the Internet) occur, and organisations must be prepared for them.

The Black Swan theory was popularised by Nassim Nichoas Taleb in his book of the title “Fooled by Randomness”. The book contends that since all swans are white, a black swan is considered to be a theoretical impossibility. Similarly, events which have never been encountered are considered to be non-existent or impossible to predict. The occurrence of the event, therefore, comes as a surprise. It creates a major impact and leaves the people claiming that they expected the event in hindsight.

Taleb’s book does not predict black swan events. It urges organisations and individuals to build a robustness against any possible events of this kind, and to exploit positive events constructively. He is critical of the normal distribution model that is used as the basis for calculating risks and of decision theories that used a fixed universe model for predicting events and outcomes. He accepts that other distributions are equally imprecise, but can be used descriptively to generate awareness and temper expectations.

Taleb pointed out that the rise of the Internet was a black swan event. While there were many skeptics who did not subscribe to the view that cloud computing would be adopted in a big way, hindsight indicates that the cloud was on the cards, and was all set to rock the world of commerce. It was a black swan event of magnitude that became a reality unbeknown to large parts of the world—quietly, aggressively making inroads into organisations, demanding attention and getting it. But, this was a positive event that destroyed the status quo and shifted the entire paradigm of business. It made business global, scalable, flexible and agile overnight. It was a revelation.

Today, cloud computing is more than just an insurance against disaster. It is the very medium of conducting business. It is a way of reaching out to distant markets, gaining the loyalty of customers, generating business leads, and working towards creating a secure business environment with guarantees of high availability, scalability, agility, and flexibility.

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