Maximizing the Value of Cloud for Small-Medium Enterprises – Applicable Workloads for Cloud
This section describes the typical workloads applicable for Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and an analysis of these workloads to determine the suitability of leveraging different Cloud delivery and deployment models to fulfill the requirements.
The Webster dictionary defines the term “workload” as the amount of work performed or capable of being performed (as by a mechanical device) usually within a specific period. In the Cloud context, the term workload refers to the type and characteristics of the application that are required to be hosted on the Cloud. As we know, different applications have different sets of requirements and characteristics. So what applications can be hosted on the Cloud is largely dependent on the workload.
In this section we discuss the various workloads/applications that are required for the business operations for an SME and the appropriateness of sourcing the same from the Cloud.
The primary requirement to run the enterprise is the on-premise hardware. These infrastructure services can be sourced in a pay-as-you-go model from the Cloud. The public Cloud services deliver infrastructure that is resilient and secure, a standards-based desktop environment behind the firewall, or from a public Cloud. The self-enablement portal increases productivity and reduces costs with this self-help. This is even ideal for supporting a mobile, geographically dispersed workforce. This may include:
- Application servers
- Business continuity/disaster recovery
- Data archiving
- Data back-up
- Data center network capacity
- Training infrastructure
The next set of important applications that SMEs need to run their operations is a set of office applications. These include solutions such as document management, email, collaboration suite, and so on. The advantage of getting these applications from the Cloud is that you could start small with an initial subscription and then grow the subscription as the SME grows. The suite of desktop applications and hosted versions of collaboration and productivity services are now delivered and accessible over the Internet. These applications include:
- Email, calendar, and contacts solution
- Collaboration, sharing, and document editing service
- Communications features including presence information, instant messaging
- Audio/video calling and online meetings
- Web conferencing with application sharing, whiteboards
- Applications required to do work with office documents, spreadsheets, presentations
Every SME has solution needs at the business level. These solutions are predominantly vertical or domain-agnostic and can be sourced from the Cloud with flexible subscriptions models. This includes applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and others such as the following:
- Finance & Accounting
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Human Resource (HR) Management
- Project Management System
Based on the industry domain, the SMEs require some core industry vertical solution for their operation. These could include:
- ERP solutions specific to the domain – for example, material, sales, stock, and production management solutions for manufacturing, point-of-sale solutions for the retail industry, etc.
- Data warehouse/data mining
- Web-hosted custom applications
After analyzing the applications and workload, IT organizations of SMEs need to determine which deployment model best suits their Cloud strategy.
Without going into the definition here of what the difference is between private, public, hybrid, and community Cloud deployment models , a few fundamental considerations follow for the SME.
The option of deploying workloads onto private Clouds becomes attractive when security and privacy is of concern. A private Cloud provides maximum control as IT organizations can host data and applications on dedicated hardware. Besides using dedicated hardware (as opposed to public Clouds where data and applications are hosted on shared environments), IT organizations can maintain their own operations. Economy-of-scale doesn’t apply to the same extent as with public Clouds which will most likely be reflected in higher workload costs. Nevertheless, private Cloud deployments should give IT organizations the same characteristics as public Clouds do; namely, elastic services that are highly scalable, through a pay-per-use and as-needed business model.
It is important to note that the use of private Clouds does not imply that SMEs need to invest in additional hardware and software in-house. This is quite the contrary; instead collaborate and negotiate with Cloud service providers (who already have the data centers) to ensure that the necessary Cloud environments are private to your organization with single versus multi-tenancy as appropriate. This can be enabled through the use of virtual private Clouds; for instance, where providers allow provisioning of isolated sections of their Cloud data centers including networks for your use. You have complete control over your virtual networking environment, including selection of your own IP address range, creation of subnets, and configuration of route tables and network gateways.
Workloads that are of a temporary nature are prime candidates to be deployed onto public Clouds. Public Clouds offer the elasticity and the illusion of infinite capacity that IT organizations look for. Besides that, public Clouds take advantage of economies-of-scale, meaning that service providers of public Clouds host workloads from countless IT organizations and therefore can offer attractive pricing. Furthermore, IT organizations of SMEs that are looking for ways to deploy workloads without making investments in IT assets, find public Cloud offerings appealing. Deploying workloads onto the public Cloud means IT organizations shift those particular workloads from CapEx (Capital Expenditures) to OpEx (Operational Expenditures).
The hybrid Cloud deployment model is another option IT organizations need to consider, as this model allows IT organizations to mix and match private, public, and traditional IT assets. Workloads that have a sensitive data component but need lots of processing power are good candidates for hybrid Cloud deployment. For example, IT organizations of SMEs may hesitate to push Business Intelligence (BI)-related data out onto the public Cloud. At the same time, it is the BI environment that typically uses lots of processing power. The hybrid model allows for having the data within the SME’s data center while utilizing processing power from the Cloud. As stated earlier, IT organizations of SMEs have to be prepared to run some of their IT stack in-house while other IT capabilities are being provisioned from various service providers. The hybrid Cloud deployment model is probably the most realistic one as SMEs can take advantage of Cloud services while still making use of investments that were made in internal IT assets.
Workloads that share identical concerns across multiple companies – for example, security requirements or compliance considerations – are ideal for community Clouds. Community Clouds offer services that address specific requirements that IT organizations of SMEs may have. For example, SMEs in the travel and hospitality industry find similarities in their IT requirements; namely widely distributed booking systems. In this case, SMEs may decide to either take advantage of an already existing community Cloud service and/or define the specifics that such a service has to offer and that a community Cloud provider can implement and offer back to the travel and hospitality industry.
When looking at application workloads, several dimensions have to be considered. Are applications supporting seasonal businesses such as retail, ski, and snowboarding instruction schools, boat rentals, or travel hospitality? These SMEs are most likely to have high variability when it comes to their computing needs. The same is true for computing needs that are of a temporary nature, such as capacity needed for specific projects, User Acceptance Testing (UAT), or during mergers and acquisitions. Additional dimensions to consider are:
- Legacy applications: Most likely very difficult to move to the Cloud, especially public Clouds. Legacy applications have a tendency to have specific requirements; requirements that are not compliant with the Cloud specifications.
- Standard front and back-office applications: Compared to legacy applications this is definitely the application stack that needs to be further assessed. The chances are much better that standard applications can fulfill the Cloud specifications required by the service providers.
- Batch or online workloads: The pattern of batch versus online workloads needs to be carefully assessed. Batch workloads may require a lot of memory and storage capacity versus online workloads which may require more computing and network power. Again, these are different workloads and it is important to understand which workload is appropriate to be moved to the Cloud.
- Workload frequency: This is similar to what was discussed above regarding supporting seasonal businesses; however, here it is more about supporting, for example, month-end business processes and the like.
- Workload cost: When putting together the business case for moving applications to the Cloud it is important to understand what the baseline is. In other words, how much does the analyzed workload cost today (factor in hardware, software, operating, etc.)? This influences the selection of Cloud service providers when it comes to crunching numbers.