By: Ian Campbell
The experience of IT services companies such as Ergo suggests the cloud is where Irish businesses are heading.
At the frontline of business technology in Ireland, IT services companies are reporting strong interest on the ground for the cloud. Many of them have already progressed their in-house IT environment to a point that makes a move possible.
"We are starting to see traction in the marketplace," said Mark Bate, chief technical officer at Ergo.
"There were some fears about being first adopters, but customers are starting to feel comfortable with the idea and even starting to think they are losing a competitive advantage if they don't have a cloud strategy."
The good news is that many of them have put the plumbing in place by steadily investing in new technologies. Having a virtualised server estate is an important stepping-stone, according to Bate. "It is a fundamental function for starting to think about a move to the cloud. Virtualised infrastructure is much easier to move."
It will have also given organisations a taste for the savings that can be made from a new generation of IT, said Bate, a process that they can continue in the cloud through optimisation and operational savings.
Bate said that the new wave of service delivery had struck a chord at board level and Ergo found itself talking more and more to the business leaders in organisations.
"It's being driven more from the board than from the IT guys. They get it because the cloud makes sense from a business perspective," he said. "You are shifting resources from operations that take up a substantial amount of time and money. Patching, software upgrades, backup, monitoring - that's where 90 per cent of cost of ownership is and where the cloud can help."
The IT department can be relieved from routine operational duties and allowed to concentrate on engaging with the business for more strategic
That said, there is plenty of complexity in the cloud that will drag the IT department into the discussion. Hybrid models, where services are accessed from public and private clouds as well as from on-premise solution, present challenges that need expert understanding from someone within the organisation.
"In a hybrid scenario discussions have to take place about how one piece in the cloud talks to other technology inside the firewall. Toolsets like System Center help manage this kind of challenge," said Bate.
Ergo is one of Ireland's leading companies when it comes to deploying Microsoft's IT management software and is finding new interest in the product suite as the cloud takes off.
"It lets you monitor usage of cloud infrastructure to the point where you can get a charge back model," said Bate.
The last decade has seen Ergo evolve its business to stay relevant to its customers, a strategy that has accelerated with the new delivery models. The company's footprint covers many aspects of the cloud. As well as helping companies deploy Office 365, it has a software division that builds solutions on Azure, Microsoft's development platform.
The company has attracted interest from as far away as Canada for apps it has developed for local councils to help with the processing of dog licences and car parking permits.
In another project, Ergo developed the backend of the Aer Lingus website, making it more agile to deal more efficiently with seasonal demands. "We've given them a platform capability, so it scales automatically to virtual machines to match the changing workload," explained Bate.
With diverse cloud offerings, what are the drivers that are taking Ergo customers to the cloud? "Removing cost and agility," said Bate. "The ability to provision a new environment and get a website up and running in a matter of hours rather than having to go through a long-winded purchasing process is definitely one of the big wins."
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