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Opportunities for Using IaaS in a Hybrid Cloud Environment

Organizations use IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) for a variety of needs in a hybrid cloud environment. Some companies want to leverage IaaS to quickly and economically provide additional computing power, and others want to avoid costly and complex maintenance of servers.

Some companies find that using IaaS for disaster recovery is highly cost-effective and enables the company to mirror its entire site. In hybrid environments, companies will find myriad uses for IaaS. A wise user will evaluate each opportunity to use IaaS against the risk level associated with the IaaS provider and the overall economic risks and benefits.

Using IaaS for discrete projects

Here are some examples of IaaS used for specific projects:

  • A team at company X is tasked with creating and testing a new application. The team requires a server for testing and development, but management needs the work done quickly and on the cheap. The team can acquire the resources from an IaaS provider.

  • Company Y hosts a very popular food and cooking website. Normally, company Y’s website runs quickly, but before major holidays, the site slows, and last Thanksgiving the site crashed and left cooks wondering what to do with their frozen turkeys. They employ IaaS to deal with any peaks in load.

Both company X and company Y can use IaaS to extend their internal IT infrastructure for a short period.

These two different companies may each realize similar benefits from using IaaS for discrete projects during specific time periods. The development and test team will appreciate the high level of control they have for selecting the specific requirements for meeting their needs. The food website company will gain value from the easy and cost-effective way they can extend their IT infrastructure. Here are the key benefits:

  • Creation of virtual machines with almost limitless storage and computing power

  • Flexibility to select the developer tools the team wants to use

  • Flexibility to select the operating system the team requires (Windows, Linux, and so on)

  • Cost savings from eliminating capital expenditures on large systems that will be underutilized much of the year

  • Flexibility to dynamically scale the environment to meet their needs

An organization needs to know its potential risk if its IaaS provider experiences downtime while they are using IaaS. A network outage may be a relatively minor inconvenience or even highly problematic for a specific project, depending on the circumstances.

When IaaS becomes the business

Increasingly, some companies aren’t simply relying on IaaS for bursts of extra computing power but are running their whole business using IaaS. For example, in 2010, Netflix moved to support the majority of its member traffic using IaaS provided by Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). Netflix needed to quickly scale its infrastructure to keep pace with the increased demand from a rapidly expanding member base using various new mobile devices. The company used IaaS to run all aspects of its business, from building recommendation systems for members to storing large amounts of data to providing backup and redundant environments.

If Netflix had attempted to operate its business using traditional internal data center resources, it’s hard to know whether the company would have been able to scale its infrastructure to support increased consumer demand for its services. Regardless, the company would have needed to accurately predict this increased demand several years prior in order to provide enough lead time to build new data centers.

Whereas Netflix is an example of an established company moving to IaaS, many startups never establish data centers and, instead, open shop from the start using IaaS. Zynga, the online social gaming company, which went public in December 2011, was born on IaaS and continues to stay there.

For Netflix, Zynga, and many other companies, IaaS is not simply a fast, cost-effective way of extending their IT needs; it is mission critical. When a company lives on IaaS, it must take extra care when selecting a vendor.

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