Small technology companies with the proper knowledge and skill set of virtualization and cloud computing technology will be able to meet the demands of business customers. This is what we need to focus on in order to implement cloud strategies and consulting services into our businesses. What are your client’s needs, and what solutions will help them to be successful? Here are some solutions for your potential clients, as well as tips on getting you a solid grounding in cloud technologies.
As a technician, it can be a little tricky to step away from the technical details of IT infrastructure and think on a higher level where service to end users is the prime target. Cloud computing is not new, as we know. However, its implementation has been improved over the years. Some people compare this to distributed computing and those who are familiar with network diagrams will compare it to the Internet cloud. Others who have worked with Windows Virtual Servers will consider the cloud age as virtualization.
Cloud computing with service in mind brought about SaaS which stands for “Software as a Service” or “Storage as a Service”. In the first scenario, a company will pay a subscription or a monthly or yearly fee to get access to software. This access is either available through a web browser using the https protocol or using a dedicated port through a VPN connection. This software on demand is appealing to those who do not want to deal with getting a server room, purchasing the hardware (servers, cables, cooling, etc.) and ensuring daily backups of their data. The ease of use and eliminating the hassle of the initial setup through cloud computing SaaS is one of the reasons why this offer appeals to many.
An example of this is web hosting. The same principle applies to “Storage as a Service”. It is like buying an external disk drive that is located in a data center and can be access through high speed internet connection. In some companies, the data is stored locally and later synchronized at various intervals during the day or at the end of every business day. The appeal of this approach is that you have a data center that has a backup of your data in case of emergency. A prime example of SaaS is Google Apps, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Window Azure.
Implementing Cloud Computing on an Existing Infrastructure
Depending on your client’s future direction, you can begin to simplify their current infrastructure and move slowly to a more integrated PaaS. If you have ever worked with VMware or Windows Virtual Server, you know how implementation and management can be time consuming. You also know how things can quickly go wrong when the hosting server shuts down and all depending virtual machines grind to a halt. That is one of the reasons why many who want to better manage cost and choose to go down the PaaS (Platform as a Service) route. Most technicians will see this as a mixed blessing.
It might be easy to convince a management team that they can save between 35% and 50% of actual hardware and operating system cost by paying a monthly fee that can be increased depending on the current needs of the company. On the other hand, your client might wonder what will be your role if the bulk of the work is being performed through PaaS cloud. If your current applications are running on major operating systems like Unix, Linux and Windows, you will either have to get the cloud service provider to help with data migration or you can do it yourself depending on your technical skills. Some vendors will offer you Integration as a Service if you lack the skills or the time to do it yourself. Also, depending on your proficiency, don’t forget the consulting route!
With regards to SaaS (Software as a Service), CRM and other Collaboration software are offered to those who want to move away from managing applications and software internally. Google Apps for example has an API (Application Programming Interface) that will allow companies to extend the functionalities of the applications on offer by Google to meet their needs. Some companies who want to move from hosting their own email service use Google’s API to make it easier to port their current email system to the hosted Gmail service. Depending on the programming language you are familiar with, you can access the API through Java, Python or .NET. This provides your company 24/7 access to their email from any location through a web browser. This type of cloud SaaS is also available through Hotmail.
API’s and Cloud Computing Revenue
If you want to make some money by starting your own SaaS offering, there are many ways to achieve that. What most users need is a way to interact with the cloud service they are interested in. Those who are into programming plugins or client interface to solve a problem tend to do well. They are providing as service that others require to make their cloud computing integration seamless. For example, those using the Amazon S3 fox client might want an alternative that is better adapted to their needs. There are Cloudberry and s3Hub but those might not meet the needs of everyone, hence a programmer who can help in that arena can generate a tidy revenue instead of trying to compete with the big guys like IBM, RackSpace, Amazon EC2, Joyent and Salesforce.
Training for Technicians
You may need to upgrade your skills set in order to be able to successfully deal with moving your client’s infrastructure to the cloud. If you are only familiar with Windows Servers and Operating Systems, you will need to learn about virtual machines and Vmware implementations. Some Network Administrators and System Administrators will also have to learn a bit of scripting or programming in order to interact with third party APIs that are needed to get the best out of SaaS providers like Amazon Web Service and Google Apps or Google AppsEngine. There is no need to fret because most of what you already know can be applied. You will only need to know how the cloud provider implements his service.
Also be sure to check out CompTIA’s new “Cloud Essentials” certification as it aims to cover not only technical skills but business strategies, implementation plans, and enterprise adoption.
Cloud Computing – Separating the Hype from Reality
There is an element of hype linked to the marketing surrounding cloud computing (shocking!!). You never hear about failed implementations and how some companies never trust their data in the hands of third parties. What will happen if the provider network goes down and you cannot access your data? Something similar happened a while back with Amazon and it did make a lot of people anxious. Putting all your eggs in one basket can make management easier but it is not the best when things go wrong.
There is no full failure proof cloud system. What some companies do is to start out by putting part of their infrastructure on cloud and see how well it works for them. Cloud computing is obviously not new and it appears to have matured enough for even the doubters to take note. There is money to be made for small tech companies who are astute and attentive to the business needs of their customers.