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ACN Investigates: 'Cloud computing is the future'

Businesses and regulators need to prepare now for eventual cloud take-over, warn top CIOs

ACN Investigates: 'Cloud computing is the future'
The panel's consensus was that businesses are going to have to wake up to the forces of cloud computing

Cloud computing is coming whether we like it or not, and businesses in the Middle East, as well as the regulators that govern them, must come to terms with that and adapt.

That was the view of the panel of CIOs and experts at the latest edition in the Arabian Computer News Investigates series of events. Held this week, the second event in the series focused on the future of cloud computing, delving into how businesses can take advantage of cloud services while still observing security and data protection protocols.

The event kicked off with a panel discussion, moderated by Aditya Kaushik, group IT operations manager at Drake & Scull international. The panel was made up of four CIOs, as well as a leading academic in the field of IT, and the consensus was that businesses are going to have to wake up to the forces of cloud computing.

This is despite several laws and regulations in the Middle East that limit the way in which businesses can use cloud computing.

"We must go to the cloud. SAP says in its contracts that, by 2020, you have to go to the cloud. The regulators will have to adapt," said Ahmad M. Almulla, senior vice president of IT at Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA).

Mario Foster, group CIO at Al Naboodah Group Enterprises, added: "The vendors are changing the way they're doing business. But there are clear benefits - for example, hosting your mail server in the cloud."

Indeed, the panel was mostly in agreement over the benefits of cloud computing. However, given the differences in the businesses they run, some were more willing to explore the concept of cloud than others. Hamad Kazim Al Nuaimi, IT and SCADA manager at Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower), said that, in the utilities industry, there was little that organisations could do to embrace cloud.

"In utilities, you look at data stability. You can't run such systems in the cloud. One reason is security. What if somebody enters my systems, and they switch off or on chillers across the country? It's extremely dangerous," he said.

However, Al Nuaimi added that he understood why companies in other industries are moving towards cloud-based IT models, and that, the more companies do it, the easier it will become for the ones who haven't yet taken the jump. That said, he maintained that, even in the future, cloud won't be for everyone.

"Every business is unique. Cloud may be correct for some businesses, and for some it might not be correct. The cloud is like leasing a car. It's not wrong to lease a car, but it's not wrong to buy a car, either," he said.

However, Ajay Rathi, director of IT at Meraas Holding, hit back with views that cloud computing could be beneficial to most companies, and that the security worries around cloud were, these days, largely unfounded

"Cloud companies will have much stronger security than what we can provide internally," he said.

Rathi added that companies could get ahead of the coming cloud storm by testing out the concept with applications that business divisions want. He claimed that the business divisions would likely circumvent IT and deploy their own cloud applications, anyway, so IT should be prepared to do it for them, and then take the experience to learn about how their overall infrastructures could work in a cloud environment.

"There are a lot of things where users say they want applications, and I would take six months to develop them in-house. Part of this is down to the fact that the users can't give the IT department real requirements," he said.

"So you should just show them cloud applications. Then in phase two comes the integration. Talent applications would be a good example of this - we don't need to develop talent applications in-house. SLAs and security issues need to be taken care of, but once we take care of that, I believe that cloud is the future."

Following the panel discussion, Sebastian T. Samuel, CIO at AW Rostamani Group, provided a case study on the company's cloud transformation projects. The company has taken a number of enterprise applications in the cloud, but has so far steered clear of having its core ERP delivered as a service.

This was followed by a presentation from Cherif Sleiman, general manager for the MEA region at Infoblox, who spoke about eliminating cloud deployment inefficiencies through network control. Finally, the day ended with a talk from Siva Sankaran, an ICT manager in the PMO and Governance department of a large, UAE-based aluminium company.

ACN Investigates: The Future of Cloud Computing was sponsored by Infoblox.

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