19 Aug 2009

new, intelligent planet is developing around us - one that enables us to move, interact and conduct business more rapidly than ever before. In a world where almost anyone and anything can connect to the internet, we are seeing an explosion of technology and information - and connected devices - affecting our everyday lives. With all the added convenience this intelligence explosion has wrought, it has also introduced new levels of complexity.

Organisations are facing accelerating business change, global competitive pressures, and social responsibility demands.

IT delivery has grown more challenging due to technology changes, increasing end-user sophistication and rapid information growth.

Users accessing services via internet technologies expect a secure, "always-on" computing infrastructure that delivers as easily and reliably as electricity from a wall outlet, requiring a fundamental change in how services are delivered.

Rapid service delivery and "anywhere, anytime access" characterise clouds.

Cloud computing provides a means of delivering computing services that makes the underlying technology, beyond the user device, almost invisible. And because it allows applications and services to be uncoupled from the underlying infrastructure, enabling the business to adjust quickly to change, cloud computing can be part of a strategy to create a more dynamic enterprise.

Cloud computing can also enhance initiatives for implementing service-oriented architecture (SOA), data centre optimisation and information management. Its fundamental tie to service management will help drive lower cost of ownership, improved security, higher service quality and service "elasticity" to meet demand. In addition, as more IT resources are added, a cloud-based infrastructure can reduce incremental labour costs to nearly zero.

The focus on the user experience is also a huge part of the excitement and benefit of cloud computing. A simplified user interface and SOA foundation make clouds the delivery model with the "anywhere, anytime, just the way I want it" promise. Cloud computing makes sense for many businesses, but it's important to understand the types of clouds that are available and which is most desirable, given your business goals.

Is cloud computing right for your organisation? Cloud computing can be beneficial in three key areas: Business innovation, service delivery and IT optimisation.

Cloud computing fosters business innovation by enabling organisations to quickly and cost-effectively explore the potential of new, IT-enabled business enhancements that can grow with unprecedented scale.

It also enables the dynamic availability of IT applications and infrastructure. More rapid service delivery results from the ability to orchestrate the tasks to create, configure, provision and add computing power in support of IT and business services much more quickly than would be possible with today's computing infrastructure. Enhanced service delivery reinforces efforts for customer retention, faster time to market and horizontal market expansion. Cloud computing can enhance SOA, information management and service management initiatives, which also support your service delivery initiatives.

Cloud computing also supports massive scalability. Services can be quickly expanded or contracted without requiring major overhauls to the core data centre. The benefits include lower cost of ownership, which drives higher profitability, enabling you to more easily reinvest in your infrastructure and answer the question: "How do I do more with fewer resources?"

Organisations must ask an important question: "Can a cloud infrastructure support our future needs for service delivery and demand?" By examining your infrastructure needs, you help ensure that the service environment you build today will stand the test of time.

For any organisation looking to adopt a cloud computing model, there are some key considerations to make.

In some cases, cloud computing may be the answer for receiving and/or delivering services. In other cases, leveraging the underlying technologies may be the most appropriate choice.

Reusing and sharing components to deliver services is a required part of any effective cloud computing environment. In a cloud, those shared components can be sourced on the internet, through any provider, and organisations can choose to only pay for the components that they need.

A fully optimised data centre demands a solid service management platform, deployed with industry best practices, that supports business processes, usage tracking for purposes of billing or chargeback, applications and IT infrastructure. Service management is request-driven and can allocate services, dynamically move and optimise workloads and data across the shared infrastructure, and integrate added resources to scale with very little, if any, intervention by cloud service provider personnel.

To achieve the goal of an optimised data centre, organisations must be able to provide easy-yet-secure information access. A private cloud supports more secure information access by allowing organisations to access components of information from the cloud and populating it into their servers - all while keeping the service completely transparent to users.

Furthermore, the inherently shared environment in a cloud supports resource optimisation and virtualisation - both of which help cut down on energy usage and associated costs. If greener is your goal, cloud computing can support that.

Cloud computing is a service delivery model that supports Web 2.0 by helping organisations design the infrastructure around the end-user experience - including information optimisation.

Mr Cristina is business development manager at Computer Solutions Ltd.