The business landscape through the lens of cloud infrastructure and security

By Saju Sankaran Kutty

For enterprises looking to remain agile and relevant, the word ‘Cloud’ is no longer a mere buzzword that they throw around frivolously. Every industry has come a long way from the time mere virtualisation projects were easily misconstrued as investments in cloud computing. Any enterprise that is competitive in today’s environment would not be asking ‘Why Cloud’ but would have already tried some flavor of the cloud. The enterprises would currently be evaluating what cloud model is best for them and what parts of their IT environment would work more effectively on the cloud. The demand for cloud and the maturity in understanding what the cloud offers goes far beyond reducing the TCO (Total Cost of Operations).

While the various cloud options available have presented performance and economic benefits, enterprises are still wary of many things when looking to bring in cloud vendors into the fray. Concerns around security of enterprise data in the cloud, loss of control over resources in the vendor’s cloud, risk of lock-in to cloud platform vendors, application performance in a hybrid cloud environment and guaranteed availability of business processes continue to drive, or hamper, cloud adoption.

In order to alleviate these fears, most of the cloud providers are working on providing enterprises with the right tools and frameworks to make their journey to the cloud a successful one. For example, AWS in tandem with its professional partners offers services specifically designed for the unique security, compliance, privacy and governance requirements of large organisations. From offering just cloud-based products, AWS sees the importance of creating an ecosystem with Professional services and support organizations who are trained to help enterprises secure and make the best use of AWS infrastructure.

In fact, the CIA are currently using AWS infrastructure to run workloads. Clearly, the security frameworks are robust enough to deliver what security-sensitive organisations like the CIA are looking for. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) project - the ATHLETE robots is another example of blending on-premise infrastructure with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud to process high-resolution satellite images for guidance, positioning, and situational awareness for the robot. While AWS was an early bird with its focus on IT infrastructure which helped minimise the refactoring of a lot of things, other vendors soon followed suite by adopting a more holistic approach.

Vendors like Microsoft, who’ve had a strong presence in the enterprise, have adopted a hybrid strategy that allows their customers to better integrate Microsoft applications that run on local servers with counterpart applications in the cloud. By taking traditional on-premise infrastructure products like Windows Server, System Center 2012 or SQL Server, Microsoft has been offering the same consistent platform in the cloud for clients to run in their own environments. With offerings like Office 365 being built for the enterprise, Microsoft is making cloud adoption for its enterprise customers a lot easier.

The London underground is one of the biggest examples of leveraging the cloud for improved performance. The UK government is combining Microsoft Azure with IoT to completely modernise the monitoring of various systems of the Underground network to monitor processes, secure and integrate disconnected systems, and spot equipment issues in real-time. The aim of the project is to provide faster maintenance and better service at lower costs. Football clubs like Real Madrid FC significantly increased their engagement with their 450 million global supporters by leveraging Microsoft’s Cloud platform.

Microsoft Services worked with Real Madrid to build a comprehensive platform-as-a-service solution, based on the Microsoft Cloud and Office 365 platform. The platform significantly enhanced services around social engagement, media and ticketing services, consumer apps and more.

That being said, moving to the cloud is not as simple as turning on the switch in the cloud vendor’s data center and turning of the switch on the enterprises’ data center. A lot of preparation needs to go into ensuring the expected monetary and performance benefits of the cloud strategy see the light of day. For example, enterprises need to understand that there will be a significant time period where they would have to run applications they wish to move to the cloud on both on-premise and the cloud instances, resulting in a higher initial cost before the opex model of cloud kicks in.
Enterprises also need to ensure they have a sound cloud integration strategy and execute the same perfectly; even more so in a multi-cloud vendor model. It’s here that a partner with a more holistic view of the entire landscape is an ace.
Enterprises can leverage the experience of partners who are product and vendor agnostic with expertise in traditional infrastructure, data, applications and the cloud to create a successful roadmap. Partners of this nature also tend to bring with them deep domain expertise and understanding. This is paramount as it helps enterprises leverage the technical expertise to help build frameworks that leverage the cloud while meeting governance and regulatory requirements. Such partners have the experience to evaluate the current landscape and propose what cloud options are the best, based on larger business goals.

The success of any cloud engagement is not measured by the reduction in the cost of operations or by the time saved to get things up and running. True value is delivered when enterprises, after making these investments, are able to simplify their operations, create new revenue streams, increase their reach to customers, and leverage the agility of the cloud to significantly improve their time to respond to the market needs. The cloud has moved beyond being a mere technology investment but is now a business investment. Realizing that potential requires enterprises to work with partners who can evaluate the landscape and map the required cloud investments with an unbiased view.

The author is Associate Vice President - Cloud Infrastructure and Security at Infosys

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Updated Date: May 13, 2016 15:52:41 IST


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