As the debate within IT rages on about the utility and fit of cloud computing into enterprise environments, I'm finding that IT is using cloud computing more than many realize. I call this the invisible cloud.
What's happening is that cloud services, once represented by very visible SaaS (software as a service) providers like Salesforce.com, now include less visible and even invisible IaaS (infrastructure as a service) providers such as Amazon.com, 3Tera, and Go Grid. Thus, the data, the middleware, and even the core application processing may be cloud-based. In fact, it's almost impossible to detect the differences between cloud-based and traditional on-premise architectural components.
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Much of the recent movement to cloud computing has been around the use of commodity infrastructure, which is simply moving architectural components (databases, application servers, middleware, and so on) from the enterprise datacenter to the cloud providers, as those in IT determine the need to do so.
There are a few advantages to the invisible cloud.
First, users don't know or care if they are using a database down the hall or at a cloud computing provider thousands of miles away, as long as they get their data. They do care, however, if they are given a new application, such as a SaaS offering. The use of the invisible cloud to increase efficiency and reduce cost can be implemented with virtually no impact on users -- if you do your architecture and implementation correctly, of course.
Second, you can avoid some internal IT politics because the use of the invisible cloud does not have to appear on everyone's radar screen. That quiet approach avoids having droves of IT staffers showing up to meetings with copies of "Gmail outage" articles as proof that your new cloud-based database provider is going to destroy the business. If you're charged with maintaining the architecture, you can quickly and quietly make the change that's right for the enterprise architecture, without getting into hype-driven and ill-informed religious arguments around the cloud.
Finally, you have the option to use both on-premise and cloud-delivered infrastructure, so you can also build redundancy into your architecture when using cloud computing. In fact, much of the use of cloud-based infrastructure services is around "hot standbys" -- systems ready to take over if the core enterprises systems fail. With many enterprises suffering outage costs of $1 million an hour or more, cloud computing can be cheap, good insurance.
This story, "Avoid the religious debate by using the invisible cloud," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.