Death of the disk

Cloud computing and virtualisation are changing the way that software is managed, but what impact is that having on IT management, and what opportunities does it open up for new strategies? Keri Allan investigates.

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Death of the disk Ensuring remote access doesn’t compromise security is challenging.
By  Keri Allan Published  October 11, 2011

Cloud computing and virtualisation are changing the way that software is managed, but what impact is that having on IT management, and what opportunities does it open up for new strategies? Keri Allan investigates.

T he way an organisation’s IT infrastructure is designed and run is rapidly changing. A combination of virtualisation and cloud computing is having a major impact, not only on the way it is structured but also on the way it is used, provisioned and even budgeted.

It is also having a major impact on the way software assets are managed. However, if managers choose to be proactive, rather than reactive, they can leverage tremendous value from this move.

A virtualised IT architecture provides managers with the flexibility to move software assets, be they business applications or data and systems management functionality, from a variety of standalone computers, to a central location in a datacentre. These applications can be virtually accessed on whatever device the user is working on from any location at any time. In addition, managers can also benefit from centralised maintenance and improved security, resulting in both money and time being saved.

“The cloud environment can improve utilisation, whilst at the same time driving down internal costs,” notes Mohammed Khodr, senior cloud strategist at HP Middle East. “This improves flexibility in software, resulting in quicker time to market of products and services. This delivers significant competitive advantage.” Virtualisation and the move towards cloud does have a positive effect on software asset management; however it also adds new levels of complexity. Managers must decide on what kind of virtual solution they want and also navigate the complicated path of software licensing, which is still evolving under virtualisation.

“For datacentres/private cloud operators, traditional software licensing just got an additional dimension of complexity, since it now depends as well on software vendor specific virtualisation rules,” explains Gerhard Schlabschi, senior manager Global Campaigns, Oracle. “The desire for simplified licensing and transparent business models is already a major driver to simplify and harmonise IT infrastructures. Vendors with a broad software portfolio can offer simple and homogeneous licensing terms – also on virtualsed infrastructures – thus add real customers business value and will have a competitive advantage.

“Software-as-a-service (SaaS) services in public clouds are mostly sofware vendor operated and provide clear, usage based licensing rules,” he continues.

“Infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS) public cloud services offer a more diverse scenario. Some of them already offer commercial software on their platform and include software license management as an option. IaaS cloud users management of cloud deployed licenses is in its early infancies, with lots of grey areas and unresolved questions.”

Microsoft’s advice on managing software assets in this environment is to keep management integrated and standardised. “The best way is definitely to select and standardise on the right management tools,” says Ramez Dandan, platform strategy manager, Microsoft Gulf. “The management platform you use should be integrated and end-to-end. In other words, it should be able to manage your physical, virtual, and most importantly (since that’s what users see) the applications you’re running in your environment, in an integrated manner. It should also help you manage your workloads across both private and public clouds wherever they are at a given time.”

Indeed, companies tend to adopt a mixed environment to suit their business needs, making the most of both cloud and local software solutions, but of course every solution has its up and downsides.

Clearly the benefits of a mixed environment include flexibility and a lower CAPEX due to the downsizing of local infrastructure, and the downside includes issues we’ve already highlighted such as additional complexity, security issues and software licensing. This is in addition to a higher OPEX. Even so, these hybrid environments look set to become the industry standard. “Hybrid solutions will be used for the foreseeable future,” says Sven Denecken, vice president, Strategy and Co-Innovation OnDemand, SAP. “We enable our customers to take advantage of the premise of On Demand, while capitalising on their investments On Premise. The questions is NOT ‘either/or’, it’s how to manage both.”

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