Just as the definition of cloud computing is nebulous and varied, the same can be said of the definition of cloud infrastructure.

According to Wikipedia, “Cloud computing providers offer their services according to three fundamental models: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service, where IaaS is the most basic and each higher model abstracts from the details of the lower models.” Cloud infrastructure should be viewed more than just a service; it is much more complex and involves many distinct, yet interdependent layers or topic areas. 

Cloud infrastructure can be defined across multiple levels of service providers. Unlike traditional implementations, cloud infrastructure services can be hosted across multiple distinct platforms and with different providers. It comes down to where the software, hardware, network and data are “virtually” located and hopefully offers a limitless resource. Migration to a cloud infrastructure does not necessarily involve accessing all the requirements in one traditional data center, but instead providing a more cost-effective set of services distributed across multiple providers in multiple locations.

Considerations

To adequately understand an overall cloud infrastructure, one must look at additional areas, such as mobile access, the Internet of Things, data and big data. Additional infrastructure layers involve consideration of cost, performance, accessibility, reliability and security. All of these factors and layers are distinct by themselves, but when combined become interdependent and contribute to a solid infrastructure. 

Cloud

Developing an effective cloud infrastructure requires knowledge of your business and application requirements. Support may involve accessing hardware, software and services in a combination of public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. Public cloud applications and infrastructure, where privacy and security are lesser concerns, provide minimal to low cost solutions. Augmenting public cloud applications with private cloud applications can provide the foundation needed to address the additional considerations (e.g., cost, performance, accessibility, reliability and security). 

Mobile 

With the steep growth of and demand for mobile devices, it is critical to provide a robust, secure and reliable mobile infrastructure. Portio Research predicts that mobile subscribers worldwide will reach 6.5 billion by 2013, 6.9 billion by 2014 and 8 billion by 2017. Even if a fraction of this growth becomes reality, the growth is staggering. This further places a critical demand on your infrastructure, cloud-based or otherwise. And we expect to see this growth, because the term “mobile devices” encompasses not only smartphones, but also smarter e-book readers, tablets and enabled notebooks. It’s surprising that traditional IT infrastructures have not already been brought down to their knees by this staggering and continued growth. While there is still time to stay ahead of the curve, IT providers and, in general, any business using IT services should consider implementing cloud infrastructure services now to avoid future slowdowns in their networks. 

Internet of Things

Given the staggering growth of mobile devices, the connectivity support around hardware, software, storage and services infrastructure becomes a huge challenge. It is not just a regional geographic concern, but a global concern. There are no borders when it comes to the ability to connect to and reach individuals. Although IoT is not a cloud topic, it most certainly is a dependency and contributes to the ability to access cloud applications and services. 

Data, Especially Big Data

With the ever-growing world population and explosion of mobile devices and computers, there continues to be an exponential increase in the creation of data. Your personal information -- ranging from the credit card purchase of your morning cup of coffee to your Web search for travel arrangements or anything else done electronically --  is all captured and stored somewhere. Furthermore, the same piece of data may be stored in multiple locations and across multiple service providers. 

Consider all the data that is generated and stored by medical service providers. What about the cost to host, store and manage the data, while providing the security and accessibility required for medical data? What about the cost of backup and archival? Every minute, vast amounts of additional data are generated. Where does it all go? There are immense opportunities to leverage and implement secure and reliable cloud infrastructure services, which support, manage and provide easy access to the huge amounts of data.

Large data sets are becoming commonplace and easy to proliferate. It’s now possible for all IT providers and businesses to provide efficient storage, accessibility and management of big data. 

Why Should We Care?

The challenges (or opportunities, really) for implementing a cloud infrastructure are not just an IT issue. There are no lines drawn between IT and the average business provider or consumer. Computing is part of everyone’s day-to-day lives and it translates to a huge financial and business opportunity for IT providers. This opportunity extends beyond the traditional markets of IT and telecommunications, to health care, government, manufacturing and retail. 

Roles are always changing and evolving. Not long ago, a physician didn’t have to worry about IT in his or her practice. Today, that same physician is concerned about how to integrate and securely manage their patients’ digitized records. However, in most cases the benefits of utilizing the cloud outweigh the concerns. Cloud infrastructure services offer greater flexibility and lower cost; furthermore, the physician and staff can utilize global cloud resources, potentially resulting in an improved diagnosis and a better patient experience. 

Considering examples outside of health care, an entrepreneur starting a new business doesn’t have to worry about creating and implementing an IT infrastructure in-house. The entrepreneur can leverage cloud infrastructure services and focus on succeeding in the specific core business. Cloud infrastructure allows service providers to offer their specific skills, allowing the entrepreneur to concentrate in his area of expertise. 

Moving Forward

Although cloud computing and cloud infrastructure have been around for several years now, it is now becoming a topic commonly discussed by more than IT service providers. Cloud is not just a trend, but is here to stay. 

This is a great opportunity to actively collaborate and establish clear and concise standards and definitions for cloud infrastructure. Ensure the successful interdependency with cloud and other considerations associated with mobile, IoT, data and big data. Let us collectively demonstrate initiative and leadership to promote and advance those standards and interoperability among cloud infrastructure.

 

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