You might well ask — just how do we get from the historic cast iron water wheel outside our leafy Cheshire HQ all the way to cloud computing?
Well, the link isn’t quite as tenuous as it first appears, because there happens to be quite a neat analogy between the way in which industry has sought to scale to meet its ambitions in the past, and the pressures that today’s businesses face in overcoming their own obstacles to growth.
The way we were…
During the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution in full swing, mills and factories propelled their activities with their own self-generated power supplies. Driven by water (see right!), steam, and eventually electricity, these on-site engines of industrial lifeblood were expensive to build and maintain, while expansion required lots of space, lots of planning, and lots of time. Power was both an enabling and limiting factor, its availability dictating the speed and volume of output, no matter the ambitions of the owners or the demands of the market.
Power, power everywhere
Fast-forward a hundred years or so, and something called the National Grid had arrived: electricity was generated off-site, and delivered on-tap to factories. As much as they needed, when they needed it. And no longer were these factories responsible for looking after or growing the infrastructure required to deliver their precious power; that expensive and time consuming job had been offloaded to the electricity vendor.
What had once been a real headache and a fundamental constraint to growth, was now simply an afterthought. Focus and investment could be redirected to getting things done faster and better.
The concept of outsourced utilities was here.
…and the way we are now
Jump to present day, and rather than power (although some may dispute this given the rising cost of electricity!) it is the delivery and consumption of IT resources that caps the ambitions of the modern enterprise. Businesses go to the expense of building, equipping and supporting on-site data centres, which take up a disproportionate share of budgets, time and focus all at the expense of strategic development and business goals.
What’s more, the typically slow, cumbersome process of procuring computing resources in this manner delays projects, slows down workers and stops organisations from quickly adapting to new market conditions. In the search for IT and business agility, improved efficiency and cost savings, organisations are (quite conveniently for our analogy) adopting a strategy of outsourcing parts of their IT infrastructure off-site to the cloud.
And that’s the simple idea behind cloud computing for enterprises: offload the time and expense of building, maintaining and expanding complicated IT infrastructures — that becomes the job of the cloud service provider. In return, they get the efficient and flexible computing resources they need, when they need them, for as long as they need them.
Instead of holding a business and its people back, IT resources become a utility that can be consumed with as little planning and consideration as the electricity and water supplies we all take for granted; and it’s from this concept that we drew inspiration for our own cloud computing platform, Cloud².