Data At Your Service: Cloud Begins to Reveal its Long-Term Value

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Data as a service—or, alternatively, database as a service—is no longer an analyst’s or vendor’s dream of the cloud world to come. It is now today’s reality. The question is: Does this new dynamic deliver enough value to justify making the switch to the cloud side of data management?

There are actually many advantages to adopting or subscribing to a cloud-based data services infrastructure. For starters—and this may be the only reason companies need to make the move—there’s the simplicity cloud and data as a service can offer.

“In adopting a cloud-based data service, companies will benefit from a simplified architecture for managing large amounts of disparate data,” said Jeff Hunter, business information management lead for consulting, technology, and outsourcing service provider Capgemini North America. “Adoption of Hadoop cloud storage environments allows CIOs and chief data officers to evaluate a single environment to handle structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data assets.”

In many ways, cloud and data as a service free enterprises and their data teams from the technical intricacies of deploying systems and solutions. “For example, cloud customers don’t have to worry about scaling all of the underlying infrastructure complexities,” said Trevor Slade, product manager at IO, a provider of data center as a service.

The cloud simplifies underlying technology, as well as the administration of it. “By implementing cloud solutions, organizations eliminate the high procurement, implementation, and administration costs—all infrastructure and maintenance is included in the service cost,” said Chris McNabb, general manager of Dell Boomi, which provides an integration solution built in the cloud.

Cloud Agility and Speed

Beyond the simplicity, cloud offers much more to enterprises. It has become “a vital and highly reliable way to increase business agility and accelerate business processes,” McNabb pointed out. “A cloud-first IT strategy makes organizations more agile for consumers of their enterprise services—whether they are employees, customers, or supply chain partners. These organizations are simply able to get more done—faster.”

This speed to market is an enabling force in decision makers’ ability to act quickly on opportunities. “Gone are the days of requisitioning a database server and waiting weeks or months for it to be provisioned,” said Amrith Kumar, an active technical contributor to and a member of the core review team for Trove, the database as a service project for OpenStack, as well as the founder and CTO of Tesora. “A fully-configured and managed database server can be available on-demand in minutes. Users simply request database instances along with additional instances with replication or clusters for scalability. Trove then orchestrates the process by provisioning compute, storage, and other resources necessary through underlying OpenStack services such as Nova for compute and Cinder for storage.”

This also means a dramatic shift away from storing and maintaining mission-critical data in databases in data centers,” said Tim Coats, director of innovation research, of Trace3, a provider of business transformation solutions. “These were often large, monolithic systems from the likes of Oracle, IBM, or Teradata. But these databases are expensive, complicated, and often very fragile. They took armies of highly skilled—and expensive—resources to maintain, and yet the projects they were associated with often took years and inevitably ran over budget. They were the anchors of the IT organization, which meant they prevented the business from being very agile.”

The bottom line is that cloud economics represents a new way of doing business that can’t be ignored. “There aren’t many enterprises that can spend billions building globally-redundant data centers,” said Greg Arnette, founder and CTO of Sonian, a provider of cloud-based archiving solutions. “Thanks to public clouds, anyone can rent them. There is also something to be said for dynamic scalability—use 10,000 nodes when you need them and idle them when you’re done. You simply can’t do that with on-premises equipment—at least not cost-effectively.”

Such faster speed to market has broad implications for organizations seeking to become a bigger part of the digital economy. “Enterprises must connect all of their digital customer interactions with their core customer data,” said Chris Purpura, VP of digital enterprise strategy for MuleSoft, a provider of an integration platform for connecting SaaS and enterprise applications in the cloud and on-premise. “The entire customer life cycle has become omni-channel, meaning social, mobile, web, and physical are all being connected, analyzed, and acted upon in real time through the use of connected data.”

Innovation is another driving factor behind cloud growth, McNabb added. “They can also plan, develop, test, throw out, and start over again in a matter of weeks or months instead of locking themselves into a risky and expensive long-term strategy that may not pan out.”

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