|Issue:||North America 2012|
|Topic:||Why ‘going to the Cloud’ should be top of mind for the 21st century enterprise…
|Organisation:||AIS North America|
Tim Caulfield is the Chief Executive Officer of American Internet Services (AIS). A well-known thought-leader during the evolution of the hosting industry, Mr Caulfield has held senior executive leadership roles with Savvis, Cable & Wireless America, Exodus and Digital Equipment Corporation. He excels at building thriving companies that delive best-in-class hosting, co-location and managed and professional services to clients from start-up to Fortune 500.
As senior vice president of Global Operations at Savvis, a global leader in IT infrastructure services for enterprises, Mr Caulfield led the efforts to rapidly expand the company's international data center footprint, upgrade its network infrastructure and expand its operational capabilities for managed services and utility computing. As the managing director for Global Services at Savvis, he was responsible for the company's top customers, as well as its Professional Services and Managed Security Services businesses. While at Cable & Wireless America, Mr Caulfield led its Hosting business, which represented over US$450MM of revenue.
Mr Caulfield holds an MBA from the University of Oregon and a BA from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Going to the Cloud is now a popular topic of conversation... not least because of its potential to reduce OPEX and CAPEX. More than that, it is convenient, flexible and less risky than traditional infrastructure changes. Since it is a pool of servers, scalability can be easily achieved as and when needed, without a sudden outlay. Since Cloud servers are ‘virtual’, no single location or single server failure could cause a disaster. Since upgrades are centralized, they are well tested and are less intrusive,
I sit on several boards in the San Diego region. Towards the end of last year and certainly early into 2012, it seems like once someone hears where I’m from (regional provider of enterprise class enterprise-class data center, cloud and connectivity services) and what I do (I’m the CEO), the conversation tends to drift to, ’What do you think of the Cloud?’
No doubt, cloud computing is top of mind for many. VentureBeat, a reputable source for breaking news and in-depth reporting on a range of technology trends, held an event called CloudBeat 2011 late last year, which focused on what they called real and revolutionary instances of enterprise adoption of the cloud.
Early in 2012, TechWeb’s Cloud Connect event aimed to bring together “the entire cloud eco-system” in an effort to define and frame cloud computing discussions for business technology executives, IT professionals and developers.
So is the Cloud going to be important in 2012 and beyond? Certainly.
Do people know what the Cloud is and how it can apply to their business? Good question and perhaps a really good place for this piece to start.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
That’s a mouthful, for sure. Words and phrases to pay attention to include:
> convenient, on-demand network access
> shared pool of configurable computing resources
> rapidly provisioned
> minimal management effort
Not listed, but certainly the bow that nicely ties up this “package” is the reduction of Operating Expenses (OpEx) and Capital Expenses (CapEx).
Ears usually perk up after hearing this:
That’s when I drill down a bit. The economy is definitely rebounding, yet CFOs are reluctant to pull the trigger on capital expenses. However, there may be a need to ramp up computing power to handle activities related to the core functioning of their business. The cloud, and specifically the use of virtual data centers, can address this extremely cost effectively.
Then there’s the “what if” scenario as in “what if my data center loses power?” or “what if there is a natural disaster”? Has the business put in place the necessary elements of a disaster recovery / business continuity (DR/BC) plan with proper levels of availability and redundancy?
The answer often is, “I know, I know. Just haven’t gotten around to it”. Or, “we haven’t allocated funds to it”. In essence, it is a project that will be gotten to at some point.
We all know that DR/BC is what keeps IT executives up at night. With smart utilization of “the Cloud”, they may be able to rest easier.
The beauty of incorporating virtual “cloud” servers into an enterprise’s IT setup is that the company can be firmly in the driver seat without having to interact with physical servers or a service provider. They will be able to:
+ Add and remove “servers” on demand
+ Connect them together
+ Size them according to need
+ Move / duplicate / resize within minutes without compromising security or business continuity.
So, in essence, businesses have opportunity to grow and compete without investing heavily in infrastructure. They will gain data center efficiencies through better resource utilization and automation. Plus, this isn’t a “rip and replace” solution. Rather, virtual data centers can be quite complementary to a company’s current IT infrastructure setup.
After explaining the above, some come back to me with one more question:
What else do I need to know?
Another really good point to tell the CFO is that virtual “cloud” servers have predictable cost structures and can be rapidly scaled. So you get immediate business benefits without surprises to the bottom line.
Going to the Cloud starts at the White Board:
The Cloud is something enterprises shouldn’t ignore. Rather, they should embrace it with a game plan for implementation that isn’t disruptive. To do that, I recommend starting at the white board. Make sure you have a really good picture of where you are with your IT infrastructure and where you need to be from an apps, functionality, DR/BC and availability standpoint. Understand where are your assets (physical servers) residing now and look for where you can test-run a virtual cloud server.
It is helpful to know that this is a road you don’t have to travel alone. As mentioned above, there is a “cloud ecosystem” already in place to help.
After what I’ve seen over the last couple of years on the natural disaster front, targeting high-availability and disaster recovery / business continuity is an excellent place for cutting your “cloud” teeth.
Traditional “Physical” Servers… Virtual “Cloud” Servers
Are bound by physical location Are not location dependent. Services can be moved to different locations quickly and efficiently.
Are subject to hardware failure Will not be taken down by a single hardware failure.
Can be somewhat problematic to backup / restore Can be backed up and restored at will (within seconds)
Are usually impossible to interconnect and secure at a service provider’s facility Offer more flexibility and control for connectivity to a company’s cloud / corporate network
Require time to provision (OS customization, application configuration and security hardening) Allow for cloning a “golden” configuration that provides more reliable standardization, security and efficiencies in administration.
Require downtime to upgrade resources (more CPU, RAM or storage) Can have software upgrades and patches tested on 100% identical systems prior to rollout.
Require more extensive resources for testing / development or patching and application upgrades Resources can be easily added where and when needed (pay for what you use)
Often are an inefficient use of hardware and storage Has inherent features which provide for high availability
Source: Steve Wallace, Vice President of Managed Services and Network Engineering for American Internet Services (AIS)