Book Review: Cloud Computing Explained: Implementation Handbook For Enterprises

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Cloud Computing ExplainedBy John Rhoton

Today’s environment has seen a tremendous amount of interest in cloud computing, especially for the enterprise community. Enterprises have responded to the credit crunch by downsizing or trimming their IT staff and reducing the amount they spend on hardware in any given year. Unfortunately, downsizing IT staff and equipment when you’re hosting critical services in-house can be a recipe for disaster: mission critical hardware begins to fail with no replacements, and the lack of IT staff means that there aren’t enough repair staff available to respond to critical failures that ultimately cost enterprises hours of lost labor while the smaller IT staff responds to the failure as quickly as they possibly can given the circumstances.

As a result of this downsizing, many enterprises are looking to move as many services as they can out from their own server rooms and into the cloud. The cloud has several advantages for cash-strapped enterprises looking to move services out, but for many enterprises and enterprise-level IT staff it’s difficult to completely understand and comprehend the difficulties of moving their services out to the cloud. The enthusiasm for cloud-based solutions is undoubtedly there, but quite often the expertise isn’t, and many enterprises are hesitant to move over to the cloud without a good idea of the problems inherent in the move and the solutions and frameworks available to respond to them.

It is this very reason that Cloud Computing Explained was written – it’s a handbook for enterprises that details the different ways to implement a cloud computing solution. It’s critical that senior IT staff have a solid understanding of the ramifications and implementation available concerning cloud computing- and that’s something that John Rhoton does quite well. He doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of cloud computing implementation, including the introductory planning phase. Many books about cloud computing will go into the implementations available but they won’t walk you through the planning process: quite simply, not every service will benefit your company by going into the cloud.

Cloud Computing Explained actually does go into the process of analyzing and assessing each of your services and deciding whether or not it’s worth going into the cloud with that service. It doesn’t just go into the cost side of the equation- many analyses will focus only on whether or not moving the services to the cloud will save you money on the books. Cloud Computing Explained, however, actually goes into the impact that transforming that specific process or application will have: moving services into the cloud isn’t a trivial endeavor for either the IT staff or the employees involved- it’s difficult for the staff and the employees to get acclimated to new technologies, and sometimes the move to the cloud can have hidden difficulties, like reduced bandwidth, that actually impact profits far more than the simple cost calculations on paper would lead you to believe.

Rhoton does this by leading the reader through the book in a logical, 10-step sequence: Define, Assess, Design, Select, and so forth. Each section contains very detailed and level-headed assessments of different subjects concerning cloud computing that other books often don’t address, including assessing future strategic and risk assessments as well as management layers and infrastructure stacks. The book does give a full, complete picture of the process of moving your infrastructure to the cloud- Rhoton even brings into play lists of cloud vendors for each specific phase and how they can help your cloud computing implementation as well as different costs and benefits to each.

The book is extremely practical, something that’s often missing from cloud computing handbooks. Many handbooks are concerned more with theory and less with practical implementation- Rhoton’s handbook is very level-headed and definitely aimed at CTOs, CIOs, or managers who are seriously considering moving their services to the cloud and need to be completely up to speed with implementation and planning of moving services to the cloud. After reading this book, anyone needing to move infrastructure to the cloud will be well-prepared to assess the challenges involved and decide not only whether it’s worth it but also how best to make the transfer if it does end up being worth it.

There are some minor quibbles with the book, including some out-of-date information about the vendor’s services and some typos and technical errors, perhaps due to the age of the book, since it was written in 2009. The book also has very little theory involved- if you’re looking to understand more theory, this isn’t the book for you. That isn’t, however, the book’s aim: the book aims to help information technology staff and managers understand the practical concerns and difficulties involved in migrating services to the cloud, and as a result it steers clear from theory and focuses almost solely on practicality and how the cloud relates to your enterprise and your profits.

Cloud Computing Explained isn’t a perfect book, but then it doesn’t aim to be: it’s aimed at CIOs and CTOs who need a no-nonsense, practical guide to get them up to speed and informed on all the different aspects and problems that they’ll face when it comes to trying to outsource to the cloud. On that level, it succeeds very well indeed, and anyone who reads it will come away with a fairly solid grasp of cloud computing migration for enterprises. If your company is considering heading out to the cloud with their services, then this is definitely a great read and more than worthy of a spot on your office’s tech shelf!

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