Cloud computing coming of age, analyst says

Gartner specialist gives lowdown at Microsoft New Zealand Cloud Summit

When it comes to cloud computing it is important to remember there are private and public clouds, with many organisations running hybrids, Gartner Singapore principal analyst Errol Rasit said at a Microsoft Cloud Computing Summit in Auckland last week.

In his address Rasit noted that the cloud computing spectrum runs from closed private clouds to the open public cloud, exemplified by Google and webmail services such as Hotmail.

Private clouds come in customised and managed forms, and, moving along the spectrum into the public cloud sphere, there are “community public clouds”, where organisations share resources with over open cloud systems, but which are not fully public clouds.

He cited an European insurance company that set up a private cloud, but whose partners and suppliers had difficulty interacting with some systems. The answer was to make it a community public cloud.

Many large organisations are more focused on building private clouds, whereas smaller ones are taking up services based on the public cloud, Rasit believes. As such, he sees a hybrid model emerging pointing to industries which have seasonal spikes in computing demand; for example when organisations have periodic discounted sales.

“The public cloud may be a back-up for when internal IT is at peak capacity.

“A company may rent a public cloud service for, say, a month at a time of high demand.”

For companies, going to the cloud, either private, public or in hybrid form, is a natural follow-on to virtualisation, and as with virtualisation, this is being done incrementally, he said.

“Many of us will use the virtualisation groundwork we’ve laid to implement private clouds on top.”

Non-mission critical applications, or those that require less than 99.999 percent uptime, are good contenders for being delivered via the cloud, he said.

While cloud services offer many opportunities for the business in terms of cost-savings and efficiency, the implications for IT of putting applications into the cloud have many IT departments concerned, he said. After all, being able to do more with fewer IT staff is one of the selling points of cloud computing, he noted in the presentation.

“CIOs and IT managers sometimes look worried when talking about the public cloud.

“They’re concerned that the role of IT in the business may be diminished.”

That concern shouldn’t be taken as a threat, but rather as a sign IT’s role will change as cloud computing, as Rasit believes, becomes more pervasive.

“ITs role will be different. If you put something into the cloud, it is still IT’s role to administer it, and to tell the cloud provider if something is not optimal.”

He thinks the uptake of cloud computing will mean fewer jobs for Windows and Linux administrators, but more for those who are proficient in cloud services such as Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure.

Another role for IT will be as a gatekeeper for the organisation, providing quality control so that different parts of the business don’t over spend on cloud services.

As Rasit noted, it is very easy today for different parts of the business to procure cloud services directly and that “IT should still govern the cloud”.

Locally, Computerworld has heard persistent industry comment within the IT scene that many vendors of cloud products and services are marketing directly to CEOs and chief financial officers, rather than to IT and the CIO.

Rasit does predict the rise of cloud service brokers, providing a range of cloud services for a client, from a multitude of choices, that best serves their needs.

Just as there are a several mixes of private, public and hybrid clouds, cloud computing can be broken into several services: software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and business process-as-a-service.

An example of the latter is PayPal, with full business processes being delivered over the public cloud and likely to remain mainly in the consumer sphere, he said.

Speaking after Rasit, Microsoft New Zealand managing director Paul Muckleston said he felt cloud computing “has been overhyped”, but said it represents a once-in-a-generation change in the way computing is done.

“There was mainframes, then client-server, then the web and now there is the cloud.”

While, a few years ago, the term “cloud” was being applied to just about everything, including many non-computing fields, today its meaning is far more clearly defined, he said, with the divisions into SaaS, IaaS and PaaS well-understood.

Rasit did provide an interesting definition during his presentation, when he referred to a one-sentence definition Gartner had come up with.

“Cloud Computing is a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided as a service to customers using internet technology.”

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Tags managementpaul mucklestonerrol rasitmicrosoft cloud summit

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