The proliferation of cloud computing has seen some people happily floating on cloud nine and prophesy an inevitable paradigm shift in IT while others believe it is really just a rebottled and labelled version of an existing technology. Indeed, there are few other IT topics that generate a wider chasm in opinions.
And yes – the advantages are clear: computing power and storage on demand, billing models to complement the demand model, low investment risk, access to applications without prior installation onto the end terminal, direct integration of smart phones and tablet PCs – even the complete outsourcing of the IT infrastructure is possible.
Low power consumption is also a significant contribution to environmental protection. Many companies therefore turn to IT resources and applications from the cloud. IDC analyst Frank Gens even refers to cloud computing as the IT engine of the next twenty years.
However, cloud computing is no silver bullet and whilst the arguments are convincing, it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
Sensitive data, regulatory compliance and security are some of the most pertinent discussions around the feasibility of cloud. Not all data can be moved across company borders, much less into foreign countries.
Corporations increasingly voice concerns about ensuring data privacy, including making sure that foreign government agencies do not have access to sensitive competitive data and intellectual property.
The challenge is to understand what does fit into the cloud model and how this will benefit a prospective cloud user. Public clouds quickly reach their limits as it is just that, public. Private and hybrid cloud solutions, however, offer ways to solve these issues and leverage the advantages of cloud.
For example, with a private cloud it is possible to define clear jurisdictions for each individual company – T-Systems in South Africa has its very own dedicated data centre for cloud users. Access rights for user groups can be narrowed down to a very small circle that has access to the most sensitive data which cannot even be seen by the responsible administrator.
Private clouds also offer the dynamic operation of business-critical services through the implementation of service levels. And all this can be achieved without compromising functions on the customer’s side.
Even though cloud solutions are rapidly available for use – the jump into the cloud must not be done as an end in itself. A significant reduction of costs or the rapid mobile integration of applications is only reasonable when it involves a real business case.
Therefore, ensure that you do partner with experts that provide suitable consulting services to reconcile the new cloud services with the existing IT world and its business processes. And importantly, opt for a service provider that meets global standards and roll it out in a local manner.
Roelof Louw, Cloud Expert at T-Systems South Africa