For this and the next seven weeks I am going to change the focus of this blog from non-technical advice for IT professionals to an interpretation of the National Institute of Standards and Technologyâ€™s special publication 800-145. This is an often overlooked and incredibly important document for all IT professionals to read, study, and be familiar with as it is going to help everyone in our industry get on the same page as to what â€ścloudâ€ť means. Even if you disagree with the NISTâ€™s definition you will be in a better position to explain what you believe the correct definition of cloud computing is if you understand how others have perceived it.
The first five articles in this series will focus on the fundamental characteristics of cloud computing, followed by two articles on the services and models used in cloud computing, and the series will end with an article on how you can use this information to your benefit when investigating cloud solutions. To begin you want to understand what the first fundamental characteristic of cloud computing is, which according to the NIST is:
On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
The example that I use when asked to present on cloud computing to audiences is that cloud computing models are as easy as a vending machine for the end users to operate. The end user can determine what is available for consumption by just looking at the interface, just like you can see what snacks and drinks are behind the glass of a vending machine. The end user knows how much the consumption of the desired resources is going to cost, which is the equivalent of seeing the price below an item in a vending machine. Plus the interface for a cloud resource is so simple to operate that the end user does not need to rely on someone elseâ€™s expertise to purchase and use the desired resource. That is why a vending machine does not require a business to have staff present in order to assist a customer operate the system, because that defeats the whole purpose of having a vending machine to begin with.
You must take care not to confuse your IT staff members with your end users. A true cloud solution works for the person who will actually be using the resource. If your solution allows for the IT administrator to quickly deploy new servers for the staff of another department that is not a cloud solution, but instead is an efficient IT department. True cloud solutions bypass the IT department altogether when the end-user seeks new resources and services. You and your IT staff will still be responsible for stocking your organizationâ€™s â€śvending machineâ€ť by making sure that your IT service catalog reflects the needs of your organization, but you should not be involved in the process once your end users begin to use the solution.
Keep this essential characteristic of a cloud computing model in mind if anyone is selling you a â€ścloudâ€ť service. If you cannot perceive how the least technical of your end users will be able to use the system without your assistance than it is not a cloud solution that you are being sold. With a cloud solution you are no longer in the business of taking end user requests and turning them into solutions, but instead you are ahead of the end user requests with pre-designed and readily available solutions that end users may deploy on their own without you.
Be sure to return next week for the second article in this series, and until then start looking at your existing infrastructure and asking yourself â€śHow can I add on-demand self-service for the resources that my end users need the most?â€ť Answer that question and you will be one step closer to having your own cloud solution!