Deploying infrastructure to test out every idea that a business comes up with can rapidly burn through the IT department's budget. But by using private and public cloud platforms to try out services companies are finding a cost-effective way to experiment with new ideas. European airline easyJet has been using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform since 2008. It makes use of a service on the platform that allows organisations to securely expose endpoints for in-house systems to the internet. The Azure platform and the publicly exposed end points allow the airline to trial services that would otherwise be too costly to try out, like allowing staff to use mobile devices to check in passengers and their bags at eight airports. "You can take a suck-it-and-see approach to things that previously required massive infrastructure investment," said Bert Craven, enterprise architect at easyJet at Cloud Expo Europe in London yesterday. "We could build it ourselves, but I would have to create a VLAN, put some servers in it, secure the whole thing, get all the firewall changes made, get all the restrictions and VPNs set up to allow the inbound connections," "Or I just go to my existing server, add a binding to WCF to expose the endpoint out on Azure and by the afternoon I've got publicly visible but secure services. "It's not that we couldn't deliver that trial ourselves, it's that when someone says 'I think we might make £100,000 a year selling this new service' somebody would say 'If you want to spend £50,000 on servers you better prove it'. "If instead they say 'I need IT for an afternoon to help me configure these bindings', then of course they will get the go ahead to try it. It gives us a whole new way to approach business problems." Other companies are using public cloud services to enable a similarly experimental approach, a Microsoft-commissioned report by Forrester found this week. The study found that staff from outside the IT department were increasingly likely to use cloud platforms to test out new services they thought could benefit the business. "Where IT lacks the understanding or the speed to cope with fast changing business needs, change agents from the business side become the main driver for enterprise cloud projects," the report said. IT departments could consider becoming 'cloud brokers', the study suggests, offering a marketplace of services and applications which the business can call on to innovate and deliver value, and found this is already happening at some of the 22 enterprises surveyed for the study.
easyJet's Craven said it was about knowing when to advise the business and say: "We shouldn't be building this for you, have you considered buying it from those guys? Let me make an introduction and you can get cracking and take six months off the delivery time."
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.