12Feb 2014

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Reaping Real Cloud Benefits

Cloud, Company, In the News by ZanoniL
Cloud Benefits

Not all cloud service propositions are the same, warns one Irish provider, which means businesses need to be clear about the options they choose.

– Ian Campbell reports

When the Hibernia Evros Technology Group took the decision to launch Digital Planet as a separate division, it made clear its belief that the emerging cloud market needed a different kind of support. Not many other service companies have followed suit and not many could, said operations director Brian Larkin. “A lot of competitors don’t know how to build a cloud platform and it’s not financially viable for them; but they feel the need to be able to talk about the cloud. If they are reselling a solution they are in the hands of a third-party that the client may never deal directly with,” he said.

 

The pitch from Digital Planet is that it’s a home grown enterprise service that the company owns and manages. “We’re not reselling a third-party solution so if there’s an issue we solve it. We have end-to-end control,” said Larkin. “What we saw was a gap in the market for the full management of cloud at an enterprise level.” Larkin was critical of some vendors who sell cloud migration as an easy passage, and described how mid and large enterprises need some serious consultancy services before they move anywhere. Databases must be analysed; IOPS (input/output operations per second) considered. Capacity needs must be planned and the overall environment assessed to ensure performance levels are adequate for the business. “Not every business has the same performance needs and if you haven’t done the right level investigation, there may be issues. You have to understand the platform you are moving onto,’ said Larkin.

 

You also have to be clear about the best place to start. The big change in IT service delivery has in large part been facilitated by virtualisation, replacing physical machines with virtual infrastructure. While it helps if an organisation has already moved its applications onto virtual machines, it’s not essential. Digital Planet will do it for you. “We migrated an organisation to the cloud that had a very large physical infrastructure. The first thing we did was virtualise everything on site before we moved them. The project just takes slightly longer,” said Larkin. And not everything has to be virtualised. The reality is that many businesses have core applications that don’t sit easily on virtual machines and run better on dedicated servers. “That doesn’t mean you don’t move to the cloud. Some of our customers may have 20 virtual machines and two or three physical servers for certain applications.”

 

Working out the balance is all part of Digital Planet’s client consultation process, where they test applications and look at their history. File and print services are often left on site, for example, because the client would have to spend extra money on network capacity to ensure the speed is there to support such a busy function. “The one thing you have to make sure is that the user doesn’t notice any deterioration in performance when you move to the cloud,” warned Larkin. “We do full user testing in advance and then after the move to make sure performance is adequate if not better than what they had before.” The other thing to be clear about is the benefits that the cloud delivers – if there are no benefits then why move?

 

For some time the discussion was about saving money and it’s still near the top of the shopping list, according to Larkin, but increasingly important is the pursuit of better performance. “What we offer clients is 24/7 support and levels of resilience that would be very expensive for a company to provide in house,” said Larkin.

 

There is also the agility that empowers businesses to respond more quickly to market forces. The industry talks about “elasticity”, the way virtual machines facilitate the flexing up and down of infrastructure to meet changing needs. “With traditional IT resources it’s very time consuming. You have choose the kit, buy it and then get it installed. Elasticity is a powerful sales tool for the cloud because there is no ordering or lead times. You take it as you need it in real time. You can scale up and down to meet business peaks and troughs,” he said.

 

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