Let's face it: Everybody talks about the cloud, even the general media! But what is the cloud? Is another .com bluf? or is something that will prevail?
IT has the ability to create new words of things that already exists, but with fancy names. Some people will think that the cloud is another one, but it has deeper implications. Today we'll talk about them and I'll analyze the pros and cons of a new business model in the computer industry that can change the way we use the computers and more importantly, the way we store and use applications.Maybe you have read a lot of articles about the cloud. I'm sure you have the tipical examples of dropbox or gmail that give you a consumerization of IT, but as a CEO or a manager on a company, you have to see the implications of the cloud and how they can benefit your company.
  We'll start saying tat the cloud is the evolution of the virtualization... so, let's see a little recent history of computers...
What is the virtualization? Virtualization is a way to install different machines in a same hardware in a way that each one of them thinks that under it's skin there is a hardware for them. This 'weird' concept was created under the assumption that nowaday a server (a computer with enough redundancy and security to run several years without malfunction) was 90% of the time idle, without doing anything. Under this assumption several vendors created several softwares that using this same server, can create 'virtual' servers that act as independent, using the 100% of the power of the server in use. The 'virtual' servers that runs inside does'nt know that under them there is no hardware.
The next step was to create 'datacenters' virtualized, in a way that you can move the 'virtual' machines to different phisical servers without it's knowledge (and without the users knowledge), cool, yeah? Using this technology you can move your servers inside your own company premises to prevent disruptions... But why to stop there?
The cloud is an evolution of the virtualization that allow the creation of 'virtual datacenters' inside your company or outside (using a service provider) allowing the movement of the 'virtual servers' between your company and others. The idea is that the user doesn't know where is the server. Why that can benefit my company? 
Without thinking very hard, I think that in general, you'll find the cloud useful in two company sizes: the small and the big sizes (from 1 to 100 employees) and on the oposite place of the balance, for companies bigger than 10.000 employees in general.
The small companies, eventually will find that the cloud is another outsourcing method, with the difference that now you can get a more competitive price for the externalization of your applications, because you don't have to pay for an entire machine to outsource the application, just the piece of hardware that you are using.
On the other side, the big companies, with more than a thousand machines in their datacenters will find the cloud usefull because it will be ,ore easy for them the purchase of hardware (now the major vendors sell blocks of computation+storage+networking) in a way easy to deploy on virtual environments, and the tools of cloud management (known as orchestration tools) give the hability to automate standard procedures on groups of servers.Block concept
What benefits the cloud provides? For the small, flexibility, the ability to grouth  with you in an easy way, to reduce IT costs and to convert CAPEX  in OPEX driven by the grouth of your own company. it will also reduce the implementtion cost of new applications and will give you tools reserved to big corporations (crm, Analytics) in a cost affordable for you.
The big companies will find in the cloud new tools to reduce the time spend in operations, and tools to put on production IT related services reduced, increasing fleibility and reliability. They'll find also improvements on business continuity plans and disaster recovery strategy, with savings on all of them.
What happens wit the companies in the middle? Well, the high technology tools used in cloud environments are too expensive to justify the investment for environments with less than 1000 Virtual machines. It's possible to  use this environments on external providers, but it will be hard to live in a mixed inhouse/outsourced environment in this kind of company, perhaps the only model where that will be usefull is on web environments or non-crytical systems that doesn't affect the core business, but don't worry, that will change in 3 years, so be prepared to make the change.

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