Cloud computing

In future, specialist third-party providers will help CIOs safely make the most of on-demand computingPhoto: Shutterstock

Mark Samuels talks to IT leaders about what’s coming next in cloud computing and how to deal with the changes.

Utility computing has switched quickly from hype to reality, with increasing numbers of organisations moving infrastructures, platforms and even applications to the cloud.

What will be some of the next frontiers for on-demand technology and how can IT leaders prepare for the inevitable shift to cloud computing? Here, IT leaders discuss the future shape of the cloud and present their top tips for dealing with the next generation of on-demand IT.

Tip 1. Niche providers will fill the gaps

easyJet CIO Trevor Didcock is already making use of the cloud. He expects relationships with third parties to develop in the future, particularly with specialist providers that will help CIOs safely make the most of on-demand computing.

“There’s a tendency to think that implementing the cloud means you have dealt with a concern and that it’s become someone else’s problem. But the cloud can increase security risks because you’re more dependent on partners. You have to audit your external providers to ensure they’re managing your data correctly,” he says.

“CIOs will have to think very carefully about cloud management – the cloud is distributed, so there will be a third party working with your data on their own platform. You simply have to audit; you can’t just trust the provider. The buck stops with the CIO but there is a degree of policy and there’s a nice niche for organisations to step in and fill the gap.”

Tip 2. The new management of risk

Like many of his peers, Law Society operations director and group CIO Steve Jeffree is at the first stage of on-demand computing: “I’m interested in the cloud. We’re not particularly advanced but I do think CIOs need to look seriously at utility computing,” he says.

Jeffree says the successful cloud will need to be about more than just the delivery of apps via infrastructure purchased on demand. The development of that role, he says, will mean CIOs need to concentrate on creating a new strategy to deal with the management of risk.

“CIOs need to consider privacy and controls,” says Jeffree. “Remember that managing your own networks and datacentres is risky. You buy the right expertise off the shelf, so don’t be too precious. The cloud is just another way of acquiring services.”

Tip 3. Beyond the Wild West

Security concerns, whether genuine or perceived, have dominated the early stage of the cloud and will remain a challenge for regulated businesses, says JLT global CIO Ian Cohen. The auditor will continue to ask how and where data is stored, and CIOs cannot afford to give nebulous responses.

“You need to bring clarity and engage auditors in the dialogue about what the technology can do, rather than what it is or is not,” says Cohen, who suggests the increasing move towards volume operations in the cloud will provide new opportunities for end users and IT vendors.

“What is required is the growth of trust agents to bring assurance to a world that has too many snake oil salesmen,” says Cohen. “If the supply side got together and accelerated the creation of frameworks and standards that could be relied on to provide security and mobility, then even more people would use the cloud. It’s still a bit too much like the Wild West and we need a few good sheriffs.”

Tip 4. Usage-based computing

Stage two of the cloud will have been reached, says Colt executive vice president Mark Leonard, once the ability to turn IT on and off as a utility is taken for granted. CIOs will then need to ask how they can use such flexibility to the advantage of the business.

“People say the cloud is cheaper but CIOs will only gain…

…the maximum benefits of the cloud once they can control their workloads more effectively and turn IT resources off out of hours. Once that is possible, that is when usage-based computing will really take off,” says Leonard.

He posits a number of potential types of usage-based models, including paying for each individual user per month or purchasing smaller chunks of IT capacity. Service-level agreements, suggests Leonard, will need to develop around such usage-based characteristics, giving CIOs the opportunities to buy performance on demand.

Tip 5. On-demand as true agility

Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO at EMC, also recognises that the cloud has to change and become more agile. He says IT as a service requires an integrated cloud architecture, with service-based pricing.

“The business should pay for the level of service it expects. If the business pays for platinum quality, the CIO should ensure the business gets platinum service. That represents a true transformation to service-based IT, where agility is inbuilt and not simply bolted on,” says Mirchandani.

“Strip away the black box surrounding IT and think about how you can deliver technology as a service to the business. Think carefully about how you relate with your colleagues and you will begin to see how agility can really happen.”

Tip 6. Cloud for mobile workers

Bill Chang, executive vice president of the business group at SingTel, is impressed at how rapidly business models for the cloud are taking shape. He says early adopters are making quick on-demand gains and expects mobile to be the next frontier for cloud.

“More and more people now own tablet devices and are requiring access to cloud-based apps on the go. That trend is creating new challenges in security, control and performance,” says Chang.

“Managing the cost of deployment is a major challenge for CIOs, but we’re seeing that some organisations are well-positioned. The early adopters are starting to move forwards with regards to cloud computing and mobile devices.”

Tip 7. Towards the native cloud

The third stage of the cloud, suggests Colt’s Leonard, will revolve around a native-like form of computing. Here, applications will be written to meet business rules that closely match the capabilities of on-demand technology.

Rather than infrastructure or apps being simply hosted in the cloud, software will be specifically designed to take advantage of on-demand capabilities. Such features will specify how apps run at certain times and whether they should automatically burst their capacity at peak times, regardless of cost.

This native form of software development will mean CIOs can cost-effectively provide apps that are ready for any business eventuality. “CIOs will see a stage where developers write an application with inbuilt levels of availability and disaster recovery,” says Leonard.