What is enterprise cloud?
Enterprise cloud refers to using cloud-based systems architecture and applications as a primary aspect of business operations.
Not every company utilizing the cloud this way specifically qualifies as "an enterprise." Therefore, the term depicts a cloud strategy and deployment with enough cloud elasticity and scalability to serve an enterprise-scale business.
IaaS and other key enterprise cloud elements
The basic foundation of an enterprise cloud solution is often a cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) subscription from at least one major cloud service provider (CSP)—Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and so on. Organizations often utilize the IaaS cloud computing solutions of two or more CSPs.
Choosing IaaS from one or more of these CSPs gives enterprises access to the provider's numerous in-house software as a service (SaaS) tools for data storage, enterprise resource planning (ERP), voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications, and numerous other purposes. IaaS also typically allows enterprise customers to use certain SaaS options from third parties because vendors often have business relationships with multiple public cloud providers.
Additionally, CSPs in the enterprise cloud space often offer platform as a service (PaaS) solutions that organizations can use as their primary workspaces for application development. This allows development and operations (DevOps) to operate freely and flexibly without having to worry about resource limitations.
What are the different types of enterprise cloud architecture?
Enterprise cloud systems can take any of the following forms:
- Single cloud. A sole IaaS cloud environment hosting an enterprise's off-premises resources, overseen and managed by one CSP.
- Hybrid cloud. An interconnected deployment in which enterprises use a combination of public cloud architecture and on-premises data center infrastructure to host their essential applications, workloads, data, and other resources.
- Multi-cloud. A collection of multiple clouds all being used by the same enterprise, each cloud often—but not always—managed by a different CSP. A multi-cloud deployment can be intertwined with on-premises resources—i.e., hybrid multi-cloud—or strictly operate as a cloud environment. Information is transferable between separate clouds in a multi-cloud system, but this can incur data egress fees, especially for transfers between different clouds from separate CSPs.
Nearly all enterprises require the scale offered by the biggest public CSPs—AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, etc. Truly sensitive resources can remain on-premises or in an organization's private cloud.
The rise of multi-cloud (and hybrid multi-cloud)
As of 2023, about 87% of enterprises use multi-cloud strategies. Within that share, most of these organizations opt for a hybrid multi-cloud strategy. As such, it seems likely that hybrid multi-cloud will continue to become more of an enterprise standard.
Major enterprise cloud use cases
Enterprise cloud technologies offer a foundation for scalable, efficient, and high-performing operations. They are major drivers of business value in these and other sectors:
Enterprise cloud technologies support workloads in day-to-day operations, including office applications, customer relationship management (CRM), human resources (HR), information technology (IT), marketing, and procurement. Although security concerns make banks somewhat reticent to fully migrate analytics workloads and other core operations like compliance and capital markets, the continuing emergence of hybrid multi-cloud allows enterprise-scale banks to migrate carefully while enjoying the cloud's advantages.
Telco providers, especially at the regional enterprise level, rely a great deal on maintaining high customer satisfaction. Doing this successfully is contingent on maximizing the value of customer data across numerous channels through advanced analytics. The cloud has become increasingly important to such operations, due to how much enterprise resource planning (ERP) and CRM data is hosted off premises.
Any automaker competing on a multinational or global scale regularly handles enormous data volumes. This ranges from critical vehicle performance data aggregated by onboard sensors to in-depth supply chain analysis. Automakers leveraging enterprise cloud technologies to host and manage these data workloads make them more accessible—and thus more valuable across multiple business units—than ever before.
Overcome challenges and realize enterprise cloud's full potential
The benefits of an enterprise cloud platform have been well established: scalability, cost savings, better application performance, increased efficiency, and more. Such a solution also comes with potential challenges:
- True cloud security isn't always easily achieved given that some of its core technologies are still somewhat new
- Enterprise IT departments, while well resourced, may face difficulties when establishing and managing multi-cloud or hybrid multi-cloud setups
- Legacy systems can complicate migration and cloud-native transformation
- Managing relationships with multiple cloud providers might be tricky due to differences in performance, security policies, and service-level agreements (SLAs)
None of these are insurmountable issues. It's all a matter of approaching them methodically and strategically and using the right tools for the right situations.
For example, if IT reviews the existing multi-cloud deployment and finds it isn't as secure as would be ideal, a hybrid cloud model—in which the most sensitive assets stay on premises—is the right move. Or it may be a matter of adopting more cutting-edge perimeter security solutions, such as next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) that protect cloud and on-premises infrastructure.
Also, enterprises can be more agile by using apps designed for optimal cloud operations but aren't restricted to compatibility with one cloud vendor. This grants flexibility, helps maintain business processes when outages occur, and strengthens overall operational resilience. Work diplomatically with the CSP experiencing downtime while quietly migrating critical workloads to other clouds.
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