Irish firms on par with European norms for cloud uptake

30 Nov 2010

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One of Cisco’s main authorities on cloud computing and virtualisation says Irish businesses are up there with their European cousins when it comes to making the most of the cloud computing opportunity.

For Jim DeHaven, head of Business and Virtualisation for the UK and Ireland, Cisco, one of the trickiest decisions when it comes to cloud computing is not about choosing to go to the cloud in the first case but deciding whether to go public cloud or private cloud.

“The private cloud is something that largely has to be dealt with, to a larger degree, internally at first. You have to convert your enterprise into your private cloud. Let’s not assume that all applications can be virtualised in terms of the cloud, you will always have some degree of legacy standalone applications. But you do as much as you can. Then you begin to federate that enterprise cloud with some public cloud offerings – that federation is a private cloud.”

DeHaven says that once you get to that point you can start to move out applications, non-core context applications, such as email, to other ISPs to manage them for you. But the federation and security component are key.

“One of the key hurdles would be making sure the audit and compliance are there around security because that federation on your end and the information you have, especially the personal information you have, has to be secure – especially if you’re going to merge that with a public cloud offering.

“Larger firms want to do it but they have a lot more complexity associated with it. Smaller commercial customers are leading the charge. They don’t have that complex legacy environment. The smaller more nimble, more agile partners and resellers are actually creating cloud service offerings for that commercial market much more quickly that traditional outsourcers. The financial proposition of the cloud and the cost savings are there in the Irish market and across the board.”

New roles, new skills

However, there is a degree of complexity in that evolution because you suddenly have this virtual world mixed with the physical world and you need to figure out how to troubleshoot it.

“I would say the key things are the new skills and new roles that crop up. Instead of the old storage teams, server teams, network teams … we’re now seeing more data-centred architect roles that require the individual to be proficient on the network to secure the end storage.

“You now have to be proficient on all three because everything is being virtualised and integrated. Looking at the industry, we’re all developing our products with each other so that the plugs are there so that when virtualisation goes through, it’s virtualisation from the front to the back, which will require the IT guys to understand all capabilities, like security.

“I would advise that businesses pick application projects and evolve them through the infrastructure instead of trying to change the infrastructure wholesale – it gets too complex and the cost of doing it in resource in time gets out of hand.”

Ireland in the cloud

From an Irish market perspective, DeHaven says the country’s businesses are on par with what Cisco is seeing in the broader European markets.

“About a year and a half ago, I was in Ireland speaking with a lot of service providers about the potential of cloud computing. It was quite a wrap up, as they were prepared to build out their infrastructures to start delivering cloud already. Customer adoption is largely similar to other places – which is quick adoption and a greater appetite in commercial mid-market space where the finances make more sense. Thing are very sensitive around cost and cost justification at the moment.

“I think that cost cannot be overlooked. Being able to move to a traditional capital model to an operational expenditure (OPEX) model is key. From an IT department perspective, cloud computing allows IT to operate like a business partner with faster delivery of services – enabling them to deliver back those services versus the long lead times it takes to build things. I would say cost, agility, flexibility and complexity are key components.

“There’s going to be, from an IT perspective, a degree of infrastructure and application rationalisation that has to happen. What we’re finding is that a lot of customers are saying: ‘well, first we have to single out the application we’re going to use versus the 25 apps that we’re using today.’”

DeHaven says there is also an organisational transfer that has to happen – one that cannot be overstated.

“What we’re seeing is this whole traditional culture of IT change to suddenly not needing as many people. I will always see infrastructure internally as necessary. I don’t see customers outsourcing everything to the cloud. You could have a hybrid federated model but it requires organisational transformation because now it’s about delivering IT as a service as opposed to the traditional ‘let’s build it’ IT approach.

“I think the cloud enables a new consumption model that will deliver more agility.”

In conclusion, from an economic perspective, DeHaven says financial barriers of entry to a new market drop dramatically.

“So my optimistic point of view is that suddenly smaller businesses have greater IT capability to operate much more competitively against larger organisations. By lowering the cost barrier to entry – opening shops, businesses, or entering markets is now made easier, because all of a sudden entering the market has become a matter of weeks and days and instead of months and years.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com