Do you qualify for cloud status?

Again, this is easily illustrated by a recent conversation I had with Kingston, the memory firm, whose offer of free consultancy on the best mix of memory for your servers was, amazingly, driven by splenetic disbelief at the ludicrous memory options provided in enterprise-grade servers by the numpties that sold them to Kingston's customer base. Notice how emotional that is? Surprising, isn't it?

Not to me. My next home server is already on the floor in my basement. It's an HP ML110 G5, which means a cheap Xeon CPU, 4 PCI-express slots, 4 SAS/SATA drive cages (cold swap only). I bought it with a miserable little 160GB SATA in it and 1GB of RAM, with a hopeless, ossified, pathetic config of Small Business Server on it, for 80 on eBay. By the time I am done with it, it will have 2 15,000RPM Raptor drives to boot from, 8GB of RAM and 4 *extra* Ethernet ports; I estimate it will run between 50 and 100 Exchange users, using modern software in place of that nasty and neglected SBS setup.

The question I posed at the outset is: Can you make use of your existing IT portfolio your servers and services, to make a case for already being in the cloud in a useful way? Clearly, the machine I've just described is at the bottom end of a modern specification, and equally clearly, nobody is proposing competing with Amazon or Azure. But consider the way the goalposts are moving, as BT's leisurely rollout of Infinity fibre is slowly soaking into the mindset of a business connection consumer. Everyone assumes that a fast net link immediately justifies a wholesale move of infrastructure to the cloud, but I don't see that trend being quite so clear cut: an 80Mbps link means that you could decide to host all your services locally. After all, when a skilled IT outsourcing business services your cloud-hosted servers, they do it using a remote control utility that will do the exact same job for you if those servers are under your desk.

My personal suspicion is that the rise in importance of IT service provision inside businesses has actually produced a pretty large group of guys whose knowhow and uptime record is every bit as good as the hosting business can manage to show.

Fast pipelines going into businesses will produce a new group too: Companies that qualify as cloud-enabled, without signing their life or their data away to undisclosed third parties, because they already qualify. This is meant to be thought of already in the world of hybrid cloud a split in which some work is done inside the castle keep, and other work takes place beyond the pale, out somewhere on earth.

In reality, lots of companies are there already but the work is divided by budget rather than ability so there's internal network people, with largely Windows servers, and external web people, who never see a server and buy and use space in very small chunks.

The new cloud businesses will have relatively low-traffic websites, running on a tiny portion of their in-house infrastructure, pointed to by external internet domain names and routing: An exciting idea if you have been worrying about the spectre of apparently-free, apparently-perfect external services coming up as a stick to beat you with in your next appraisal.

So think it over carefully. You might, after all, qualify.