Seeing through the cloud
THE ACN 100 2012 focuses on key issues around cloud computing
It’s the most talked about subject in information technology, but what is cloud computing, how is it best utilised and what needs to happen for it to catch on?
It could change the way businesses consume IT, but what does cloud mean and what do CIOs really think of its potential? At last month’s ACN 100 Forum, Paul O’Kirwan, IT director, Dubai Mercantile Exchange; Nigel Hattersley, regional IT director, Starwood Hotels & Resorts; and Travers Nicholas, vSpecialist manager, EMC, debated these issues in a session moderated by Mohamed Jamal-Eddine, systems engineer, Abu Dhabi Ports & Customs.
Mohamed Jamal-Eddine (MJE): Gartner defines cloud computing as ‘a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies’. Do you agree with this definition?
Nigel Hattersley (NH): I think the definition is sound; however, cloud then needs to be broken up into what is private and public and the definition itself is extremely broad. It’s open for a lot of discussion on what the actual definition means.
Paul O’Kirwan (POK): When I started looking at it I realised there’s a lot of resemblance to the old timeshare model of the 70s and early 80s where you outsourced your IT and a bunch of people shared the same hardware. Essentially, the industry has just rebranded it. It should be part of your strategy: Do I want to outsource? Do I want to stay in house? But it isn’t really a new concept; it’s just a new label as far as I’m concerned.
Travers Nicholas (TN): We think of three different attributes. You operate a pool of resources that can be shared and you can leverage the resources for any of your different applications and workloads; you operate it as a service; and you pay for your consumption, rather than paying for something that you may not consume, or at the opposite extreme, not paying enough.
MJE: In your opinion, which companies will most benefit and which will least benefit?
TN: I believe all businesses can benefit. From a small business perspective, what we’re seeing in the United States at the moment is that most technology startups are not investing in any infrastructure, they’re going straight into the cloud.
They’re buying services where all their servers can be hosted in the cloud and if they need a CRM systems they’ll got to salesforce. From the small business perspective, operating in the cloud is a big benefit.
From an enterprise perspective, we’re seeing the emergence of hybrids, where customers are building their own internal clouds and then leveraging external clouds such as salesforce.com. EMC is a customer of salesforce.com and we also operate a large private cloud in Durham, North Carolina where around 90% of our infrastructure is virtualised and operating as a service.
MJE: Nigel, yours is a large business. Do you benefit in the same way as a small business?
NH: It depends on the application or data that you are looking at putting into the cloud. From a technology perspective, in the hotel industry today we are governed quite strongly by PCI compliance requirements, which relate to credit card data, and for that type of data, we still need to own it. But, we can still put it into a private cloud, so we own space in a data centre. There are other things like e-mail or procurement systems, HR systems that can go into a much more public environment where we can buy a service directly from a vendor who hosts that themselves. We use both components, whereas I would understand that startups could just give their entire business to a single company.