IN PRINCIPLE, the benefits of cloud computing are very attractive and as a result, organisations are naturally drawn to any kind of technology or capability that will improve the way they manage their operations.
However, it is slightly more complicated with cloud computing as organisations need to rationalise several things before they are able to make a clear determination as to whether it is indeed appropriate for them and of course - when is the right time to make the move.
It is important for organisations to note that cloud computing is an evolving technology and capability. There is great potential in addressing some of the fundamental issues around IT with respect to an organisation's existing infrastructure.
Organisations struggle with cost, inflexible infrastructure and complexities, and meeting service level agreements (SLAs) as well as finding time and resources to be able to deliver innovation, which is just so critical given that so much innovation is dependent upon technology today.
So cloud computing addresses most, if not all of those issues, or at least the promise of cloud computing does.
Cloud computing does not necessarily answer in an explicit way, questions of security, compliance and regulatory conditions in markets that are very domestic market oriented. It doesn't address the issues of SLAs which are better, worse or indifferent from what have been provided by the internal IT organisation at that time.
There are also some question marks around information management, information asset security and organisational reorientation. The traditional IT department as we know would need to evolve significantly should a technology or capability like cloud computing be leveraged.
Formula for success
The first and the primary factor when considering cloud computing is always going to be around costs, especially at the dynamics of CAPEX (capital expenditure) and OPEX (operating expenditure) as it relates to IT.
The key area of focus is the capital return of investment (ROI), particularly before the introduction of technologies like virtualisation solutions from VMware.
In fact, sometimes the capital ROI is measured across many years and may be viewed as a goal never achieved in some cases.
It is quite common for most organisations to focus on the actual cost benefits of moving to the cloud when mulling over a potential move. Traditionally, the cost associated with IT is always a CAPEX and organisations will plan for IT in three-year or five-year cycles.
Often times, business unit owners will also provide capital to a set of projects and not necessarily understand the benefits of their project that will affect their employees and users.
With a cloud structure, IT becomes an OPEX. This a structure that is more aligned with normal financial planning cycles of a corporation, but it does become more manual in nature.
However, it also draws a very tight correlation between how OPEX is being spent and how IT services are being delivered. This will begin to reorientate and address the dynamics between the business and IT which is more often than not, misaligned.
Understanding and addressing the cost paradigm over time will perhaps drive better congruency between IT and the business because one will get to look at it from a more holistic viewpoint - from cost dynamics to business benefit and business orientated dynamics.
Another important factor to consider is by just looking at the translation workloads, service levels, and operational practices. While these are a set of very tactical considerations, it is still very critical.
Organisations have been conditioned to run within a certain IT or technology framework that are somewhat consistent so that the business goes on as usual. The important factor here is the translation of the on-premises infrastructure and all of the dynamics associated with that, to an off-the-premises facility.
The last and probably most important factor for success on the cloud is rationalising the service level improvement. Why move to the cloud if there was no cost benefit and there was no service level improvement?
This is a really critical factor. Given businesses dependency on IT today, 95% of broad business problems are solved by technology. SLAs become really important.
We know how important business continuity disaster recovery solutions are to organisations. Ensuring that there is an improvement in service levels through that transition from on-premises to off-premises is paramount to success.
To help businesses succeed on the Cloud, NetApp, Cisco, and VMware have partnered to create Secure Multi-tenancy Design Architecture, a unique enterprise cloud architecture that includes all server, storage, and networking hardware and software to facilitate sharing, reuse, and dynamic resource allocation.
This architecture takes the risk out of transitioning to a cloud infrastructure while delivering the advanced capabilities that businesses need.
Secure Multi-tenancy Design Architecture is an end-to-end, validated design architecture that isolates IT resources for enhanced security in shared virtual and enterprise cloud environments.
The design architecture helps businesses develop internal and external cloud services that isolate clients, business units, departments or security zones for enhanced security across the computing, networking, storage and management layers of a unified infrastructure.
Additionally, the architecture also provides details about implementing and configuring the architecture, as well as best practices for building and managing best-in-class solutions from NetApp, Cisco, and VMware.
This validated design architecture significantly increases business agility by helping IT administrators to establish the appropriate quality of service for each resource layer and to deliver consistent service performance levels for the applications in each layer.
In theory, cloud computing will deliver on its promise as it evolves. The technology does address some of the fundamental pain points of CIOs today both in Asia and around the world.
But there is still more clarity needed on certain issues in order to really make a clear determination to whether it is easy or not.
Over time, ease of use will be something that cloud service providers can factor into their offering. This would be a key element in actually drawing and acquiring customers in the longer term.
Right now, given where it is at its evolution, migration onto the cloud is not easy, but still worth evaluating.
(Andy Khoo is country manager for NetApp Malaysia & Brunei, a computer storage and data management company.)