How Much IT Can We Host in a Cloud?

M. Spanbauer
M. Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:         

  • Cloud-based applications and controllers reduce complexity and move costs from CapEx to OpEx.
  • Cloud-based control and management are likely to provide one of the most secure job roles for the next decade.

Since the beginning of the “cloud era,” new use cases for applications have been created nearly overnight.  It has evolved the application hosting market and created new IT service juggernauts (Salesforce, Amazon, etc.).  However, an area seeing increased attention from both vendors and start-ups/VC is that of hosting infrastructure within the cloud.  I am referring to wireless LAN controllers, security gateways, and other technologies that were often appliance-based and located on-premises nearly 100% of the time.  By virtualizing the location, IT achieves a range of benefits: fewer assets committed in the data center (if they host offsite), a greatly simplified support model, reduced “truck rolls,” and less hardware required on-premises. 

Take Aerohive’s WLAN solution for instance.  Customers can either purchase or lease the technology on a per-AP and time basis ($/yr) and utilize the robust cloud-based management profile system that Aerohive employs.  There is no controller to own or manage, merely the profile you assign to your AP.  This, in turn, enables customers to ship an AP to a branch and have a non-technical person merely plug it into the WAN link and a wall outlet.  There is no onsite technician required to connect, configure, and get it running.  In addition, as the trend towards remote workers and small office locations continues to increase, cloud-based IT provides a scalable, cost-effective method for central hosting and management of security policies and common IT control functions once hosted internally.  In the grand scheme of things, this is what OpenFlow/software-defined networking promises to offer as well, with a central controller dictating action and behavior to the packet control devices.  This controller could also be located in the cloud and provide direction on a subscription basis for enterprises which so desire (though, admittedly, this particular use case may be a bit farfetched and risky). 

These solutions promise cost benefits, IT efficiency, and ultimately a method to stretch budgets and scale beyond that which current models allow.  However, they each introduce a new complexity or require a different approach to implement well.  The point is that these models and others like them are reshaping the management and deployment of new IT technology.  Furthermore, those administrators who become masters in the field of cloud-based IT control and management will find themselves in a fairly secure position career-wise for the foreseeable future.

What do you think?

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