Moving Beyond Basic Cloud IT Services
The previous options work well for small businesses with basic IT needs, but what do you do when you need more sophisticated cloud services? You look to enterprise vendors like SUSE and Red Hat.
SUSE Enterprise Linux
SUSE is one of the top enterprise Linux vendors. I asked Peter Chadwick, senior product manager, and Doug Jarvis, product marketing manager, for their wisdom on the subject. They reminded me of an important fact of life: There is no magic wand, and managing your computing infrastructure, whether on-premises or hosted, still requires knowledge and expertise.
SUSE offers excellent hosted services for companies with more complex needs and in-house technical staff. You can use SUSE Enterprise Linux on Amazon Web Services, and also on SUSE Studio, which is a brilliant development environment for applications and appliances. You can try them out for free.
SUSE also has a large network of ISVs (Independent Service Vendors) and IHVs (Independent Hardware Vendors) that offer custom engineering services for shops that don't have enough in-house tech staff.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Red Hat is another top enterprise Linux vendor, and Dan Juengst, OpenShift product marketing manager, offers his perspective:
"A combination of the SaaS and PaaS services is a great solution for small and medium-sized businesses. Combining the SaaS business applications—such as customer relationship management (CRM) software—with the power of a PaaS platform lets businesses build their own custom applications. These apps can leverage data from databases within the PaaS or from the SaaS services.
As every business is unique, there may not be a SaaS application that meets every business computing need for the organization. PaaS provides an easy-to-use application development platform in the cloud that developers can use to create custom and/or integrated cloud applications. PaaS lets a business avoid running its own servers, even if it has to develop its own applications.
Red Hat's OpenShift Online PaaS service is an example of just such a solution. Within OpenShift a small business's IT team can develop applications in Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, Node.js, or even Perl. In addition, the developer can run a database for these applications to access within OpenShift as well. OpenShift offers MySQL, Postgresql, and MongoDB. A small business can build and run fully functional business applications on OpenShift without ever having to purchase a server.
What if you don't have the tech staff to do these things? Just like SUSE, Red Hat has a large network of ISVs and IHVs to help you."
Most Important Part of Your IT Strategy
The single most important component of your IT infrastructure is your people. Computing technologies, and especially open source, are advancing by leaps and bounds. We can do things now with little bitty devices that used to require room-sized computers. I fear we've been led to expect that as computers get better, humans can be dumber. I'm afraid we're not quite there yet, and it's more important than ever to be tech-savvy.
You don't have to be an engineer but, as a business owner or manager, you do need to know enough to make intelligent, informed decisions. The good news: you have plenty of free, helpful resources available. Vendor websites are treasure troves of great information: whitepapers, redbooks, videos, blogs, and case studies.
If you wanted to hear that this is the year of magic genie computing, that you don't have to hassle with pesky servers and weird tech staff, I'm here to tell you: it's not. If anything, the bar has been raised and you'll need more expertise.
However, all these new open source cloud technologies give your small business more powers and capabilities than ever, and they can be significant assets to your success.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook,and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
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