Cloud computing – Everyone’s talking about it but why should you do it?
Migration to the cloud is a hot topic that organisations of all types are engaging with. Here, James Wolf, director of converged infrastructure, and Richard Oliver, director of marketing at BT iNet, explain why organisations are turning to cloud and what the benefits, pitfalls and challenges are.
When should a business consider moving to cloud?
James Wolf: It all depends on the nature of the business considering the move. Organisations that are growing rapidly are looking for systems that scale up with a known cost so growth is definitely a trigger. Others may have systems that are coming to the end of their lives and that presents a golden opportunity to look at cloud as an alternative way of working. Finally, the increase in workforce mobility is driving another wave of uptake. For all types of organisation, cloud delivers reliable systems backed by service level agreements as well as security. Customers find that attractive.
Richard Oliver: IT is being seen as a potential way to drive strategy. Where once it was a technology burden, IT is now being asked to position its services in a way that is more aligned to the needs of the business. Organisations need the technology to transform their businesses and the way they work. Cloud is a technology that can give them what they need to be more agile.
Scalability, risk management and reduced costs are the promise of cloud solutions. Are they the reality or does cloud result in just another set of management headaches?
JW: Cloud certainly creates a new way of managing the IT estate – and systems always need managing – but it also provides a huge amount of upside in terms of what you can get out of a system. For example, it gives IT managers a lot more granularity in terms of the reports they receive into who is doing what and using which software. IT managers can then articulate how much a service is costing.
RO: It’s just a change in approach. Organisations that don’t understand the need to be accountable will struggle.
How does the role of the IT manager change with cloud solutions?
RO: The real change is about delivering critical business services with cloud managing that service. Cloud is essentially an infrastructure to deliver services and, while traditional IT had a focus on keeping things going and keeping the lights on, with cloud IT managers can focus on delivering services that make a difference rather than on routine tasks.
JW: There is an absolute requirement if you buy a product with an SLA for someone to manage that and hold the provider accountable. Depending on what the cloud solutions are, IT managers will have a responsibility here but the theory is they should no longer have to focus on the delivery of a service so they can be more efficient.
How do cloud solutions affect the day to day business processes?
RO: I think guiding customers through the options is the role of the partner. We have a transformational programme with the customer in which we look at the people they have and their roles. Before you get into delivery models, you map out what those people do and what the available, relevant tools are. Our approach is more of a partnership in which we understand the business needs before relating the pros and cons to the customer. Cloud needs to be delivered in different ways and one of the biggest reasons for failure is a lack of understanding of what a customer can do.
What is the difference between public versus private cloud architecture?
JW: The biggest difference is the infrastructure in a private cloud is dedicated to a single entity whereas a public cloud is generally shared with lots of others. A private cloud may be something you consume similarly to a public cloud but it is dedicated to you as an organisation, department or individual.
What impact does BYOD (bring your own device) have on cloud – or vice-versa?
JW: It drives ever-increasing needs for standards in what is quite a new technology market. The client and the server need to talk the same language and that is the biggest challenge to overcome. Over time, more and more services will become more widely available across a range of devices. Today, we see a lot of cloud services available on Apple’s iOS but in the future they will be available on Android and other operating systems.
Where are we in the evolution of the cloud journey – some would argue, we're only half way there?
RO: Whilst technology is evolving, I think a lot of companies haven’t understood what that means from an operational perspective – yet. Cloud means fundamental change and the whole proposition is around efficient delivery. That sounds great, but a lot of the work we do is about really understanding what that means in our customers’ businesses.
JW: We’re still in the early stages of migration to cloud adoption. A lot of organisations are virtualising and are doing so more comprehensively. They will start to deploy services in a more efficient way but we are still very early in the cycle.
What, if any, are the pitfalls of moving to a cloud based solution?
JW: Again it depends on where your business is but there are a huge number of options and a lot of organisations trying to sell products and services. Many of those won’t be here in four, five or six years and there will be a lot of mergers and acquisitions. That means there’s a lot of perceived risk. Customers what to know if they are buying a service they can rely on, what the potential for being locked-in to a supplier is and how easy it would be to change provider if they want to. Customers can make safe bets by working with organisations that have been around for some time.
RO: One clear pitfall we are seeing is that customers see it as another technological silo. It needs to be looked at as a whole. Cloud is an operating model and once you move to that its benefits become clearer.