Leading experts on cloud computing say the conversation has gone beyond whether the technology is mainstream.
There is no question that cloud adoption is now taking off, particularly with the economy moving upwards, said Steve Blanche, head of solutions in the Ergo Group. “In the early
days it was SMEs who had the flexibility and were looking for both the economics and the power of cloud solutions, initially SaaS.
“Enterprises were cautious because the first thing they saw was the potential security issues. But that has largely been addressed now by the major cloud service providers, perhaps particularly Microsoft which has made a marketing feature of its security and compliance. Similarly, data residency – where your data might ever be – is much less of an issue.”
“I notice lately that one of the things our customers are really enjoying from cloud is the speed at which they can get something, gain an outcome. IT has traditionally been perceived as a blocker, and in truth it has often been. With cloud you can get a pilot infrastructure up and running with no investment on a platform that is actively managed by a company with the expertise and experience.
“If it works, you’re on a totally scalable platform,” Blanche said. “If it does not, or is not really what was needed, you just kill it with no extra costs or leftover hardware. Your time to
market, time to experience is greatly reduced. That may be test and development in ICT terms, but it’s very real business piloting and innovation and agility.”
“Another thing worth noting,” he said, “is that larger organisations will have IT departments with specialist experts in storage, networking, servers and so on. A small enterprise could not afford that expertise in-house. It is both scarce and expensive today. But with cloud it will benefit from top level expertise in its service providers.”
“Exactly the same is true of those expensive and potentially disruptive systems upgrades that are the periodic price to pay for smart in-house systems. If you’re on a SaaS platform like Office
365 you do not have to do any such thing, ever. In a very similar way, disaster recovery and real business continuity is a box that is just ticked as taken care of.”
Asked what he thinks is the star in the current cloud market, Blanche said that Office 365 is certainly one and especially for its collaboration capabilities. “We deploy a lot. When you think of what businesses and people want to do – talk to colleagues, work on documents, their own or shared, progress projects, see what else is going on around the place. With Office 365 they can do all of that and just experience immediate benefits. It’s like taking away the old luggable brick and giving someone a smartphone. In no time flat if you tried to take it back they would hit you with the brick.”
"n terms of practical applications the market progress of cloud computing in the Irish market has started to mirror what happened with virtualisation a few years ago," said Jason Boyle, director of technology solutions in the PFH Technology Group.
“In the early days, no one would have put a critical workload on a virtual infrastructure. It was there for test and development and to play around with. Eight or nine years later we are asking ‘Why are you not not virtualised?’
“There are the three main types of cloud systems – software, platform and infrastructure delivered as-a- Service and PaaS and IaaS are really gaining traction. Salesforce.com was the first of the real cloud solutions, emulated today by many others including, for instance, Microsoft with Office 365 and CRM or Sage and others with online accounts,” he said.
“We now see applications like these as business elements we can outsource. In our own company we used to have timesheets and HR functions that now are all cloud solutions that we consume.”
“Then look at IaaS and see what that means. To my mind, this is all about specific workloads that clients are looking to do,” Boyle said. “Email, for example, is moving from on-premise to
public cloud because it is a commodity workload that is at the same time critical to the business. Email has always been largely about external communications anyway. The other areas of uptake we are seeing are mainly about test and development and point specific workloads, often those which are external facing anyway like customer portals or supply chain engagement,”
Cloud has the attraction of availability and the burden of maintaining the necessary infrastructure is taken out of the organisation, said Boyle.
“Very often setting up the workload is simpler anyway because it is cloud-based. Back-up and disaster recovery is another obvious area and very attractive because it reduces the costs to arger organisations – like removing equipment and standby locations – and enables smaller enterprises to afford a smarter solution.”
“Cloud is particularly appropriate for test and development because you only use the infrastructure when you need it,” he said.
“That could be, for example, when even a small business is moving to a new ERP or other key system. Everything can be tested and proven in a virtual cloud environment before investing
in whatever is to be the permanent solution.”
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