Not much needs to be said about the rate at which cloud computing is growing. Both small businesses and large companies have embraced the cloud with great gusto and with immediate improvements to their capability and bottom lines. In fact, IDC has gone on to predict an annual growth rate of 26% over the next five years – this is six times the growth predicted for other more ‘traditional’ IT.
While most CEO’s understand the SaaS model with ease – after all it is the same (or similar) software they use, only running remotely – with obvious benefits, the same is not true for Platform as a Service. To begin with, the term ‘platform’ itself may be poorly understood by the non-initiated. Therefore there can be doubts as to why PaaS is so important.
Let us look at a very recent case study where PaaS helped an international organization better itself.
Al Jazeera and the Egyptian Spring
In February 2011, Al Jazeera was in the forefront of reporting on the Egyptian uprising. Its grassroots organization in Egypt ensured that the world was given access to the latest in what was happening at Tahrir Square. As a result, the web traffic being handled by the channel’s Internet arm rose by 1000% (this is not a typo). Previously Al Jazeera was hosting its web site with a traditional hosting service, but this was obviously unable to handle the surge in traffic and visitors had some nasty experiences. That is when Al Jazeera moved its site to a commercial PaaS service. In effect it obtained an elastic number of web server platforms that grew and shrunk in response to the traffic.
The focus is on two important aspects of this story – the first and more obvious is the advantage that PaaS gave Al Jazeera in terms of its ability to respond to changes in traffic. The number of servers could increase to keep pace with the traffic. The other benefit which is not so obvious is the speed with which Al Jazeera was able to bring this capability into being. If the Channel had decided to (say) increase its web servers tenfold by procuring new servers, it would have taken much more time, required large upfront expenditure and additional manpower. All of this was achieved with no upfront expenditure and very little (if any) additional manpower.
Here are some more PaaS benefits that may appeal to CEOs :
Using specialized platforms – Smart phone sales have already beaten PC sales and this gap will only widen. The cloud offers smart phone users native methods to stay connected when they are on the move. This is bringing in new efficiencies to businesses. PaaS helps companies make solutions that are specifically aimed at the mobile user.
Cutting expenditure – This is obviously an area every CEO will love. Traditional IT expenditure relies on physical hardware, infrastructure and manpower. It has been said that more than 50% of all IT projects go well over budget, 31% of all projects end up being canceled and maintenance can cost far more than the original project itself. In PaaS projects, all of the hardware ends up in the cloud service provider’s premises.
Scalability and Growth – All PaaS solutions are scalable and elastic. Companies do not need to factor in future needs into their IT solutions because the size and numbers of your deployments can be programmed to grow automatically with the load. There is also no long term commitment to staying with a particular company if you can get a better deal elsewhere.
When super storm Sandy was about to hit the East coast, many companies shifted their applications from data centers in the area about to be affected by the storm and moved them elsewhere. In fact the cloud computing companies assisted their users with this and did not even charge them for the technical assistance. Research indicates that the PaaS market will grow from $512 million to $1.7 billion by 2015. Companies that move in early will have an opportunity to experiment and fine tune their operations. Later as their scale of operations grow, this knowledge will pay rich dividends.
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About the Guest Author:
Sanjay Srivastava has been active in computing infrastructure and has participated in major projects on cloud computing, networking, VoIP and in creation of applications running over distributed databases. Due to a military background, his focus has always been on stability and availability of infrastructure. Sanjay was the Director of Information Technology in a major enterprise and managed the transition from legacy software to fully networked operations using private cloud infrastructure. He now writes extensively on cloud computing and networking and is about to move to his farm in Central India where he plans to use cloud computing and modern technology to improve the lives of rural folk in India.