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Public cloud computing levels the playing field

Public cloud computing helps small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) realize the benefits of virtualization technology that they couldn't previously afford and helps equalize the market.

New technology terms and marketing lingo are always popping up, and the cloud computing market is one of the biggest offenders.

The onslaught of such terms as IT as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service has led to a rush on buzzword bingo cards. As much as I hate to add to the chaos, I am proposing my own new term: Cloud as an Equalizer. CaaE, as I like to call it, is not a technology, but rather a statement about technology.

 Before cloud, matching capacity to demand was a difficult balancing act.

Leveling the playing field
We always talk about the proven benefits of sever virtualization, but the fact is, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) haven't been able to realize these benefits because of cost restraints, the complexity of the technology or a lack of staff to support the virtual infrastructure.

The emergence of cloud computing (particularly public cloud) has helped SMBs take advantage of virtualization's efficiencies. And these efficiencies have created new opportunities previously afforded to only the largest and most complex organizations -- hence, Cloud as an Equalizer.

One of the equalizing features of public cloud computing is agility. Cloud computing allows more organizations to respond to real-time market conditions and bring services to market in record time. This agility can allow even the smallest of companies to be the catalyst for a tipping point in their markets, putting them in the right place at the right time.

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A word of caution, however: Being in the right place at the right time is good only if you can take advantage of the opportunity. Growing too fast can be even more damaging than growing too slow. If you hit the right niche at the right time, you can quickly outgrow your capacity to deliver and destroy your business before it ever gets off the ground.

Luckily, another equalizing attribute of public cloud computing is elasticity. The ability to quickly scale your services to meet fluctuations in demand can help you ride the wave of being first to market, then allow you to scale back and control costs as that initial demands levels out.

In the old days of virtualization, before public cloud computing, agility was an expensive luxury that few could afford, and elasticity simply did not exist. If you wanted to handle a high volume, you signed a three-year commitment to that capacity. Matching capacity to demand was a difficult balancing act. It led to the downfall of many SMBs and gave an advantage to larger shops that could more easily adjust to changing capacity requirements.

Now public cloud computing has presented SMBs with the chance to level the playing field and compete in the major leagues. SMBs can use the cloud to respond quickly, grow on demand and shed resources when they are no longer needed.

Enterprises had better take notice. Tomorrow's competition may just as easily come from the startup on Main Street as from the corporate competitors they are accustomed to battling.

About the expert
Mark Vaughn (MBA, VCP, BEA-CA) serves as an enterprise architect for a multinational corporation. Vaughn has more than 14 years of experience in IT as a Unix administrator, developer, Web hosting administrator, IT manager and enterprise architect. For several years, he has focused on using the benefits of virtualization to consolidate data centers, reduce total cost of ownership, and implement policies for high availability and disaster recovery. Vaughn is a recipient of the 2009 vExpert award and has delivered several presentations at VMworld and BEAWorld conferences in the U.S. and Europe. Read his blog at

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