Industry-specific clouds come rolling in

As with cloud computing in general, there are pluses and minuses to consider

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The global infrastructure will enable Orange and SITA to offer their individual portfolios of cloud computing services: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, desktop as a service and software as a service. Both Orange and SITA will continue to own the service relationships with their end customers.

Gregory Ouillon
Greg Ouillon, vice president of the IT arm of the air-transport industry, says he is "confident" that the cloud "is the way forward to deliver the business agility required" by airlines.

Network connections between the data centers are secured with "premium levels of protection against malicious threats," according to SITA. The SITA/Orange cloud will provide highly resilient service through redundant connections, failover sites and network-based intelligent re-routing that can transfer traffic around any disruptions, SITA officials say. A key goal is consistent performance among all the data centers -- the two companies are aiming to achieve no more than 100 milliseconds of latency when their customers operate their applications in the cloud.

Malaysia Airlines was a pilot user of SITA's cloud-based desktop-as-a-service initiative for "every phase of the passenger journey -- from booking to check-in," explains Dr. Amin Khan, executive vice president of commercial strategy for the airline, in an email. He said his company experienced no latency and the response time "was acceptable."

The airline continues to evaluate SITA's cloud services to free up capacity, reduce costs and increase agility.

SITA's Ouillon promises that Malaysia Airlines' desktop applications will open within 10 seconds. These desktops, rather than running at the end of a low-speed line out of Indonesia, are running out of a cloud connected to a high-speed data center, he explains. The time it takes to download the data from the data center to the desktop is a few seconds, he says. An image of a desktop is published to a remote site so the airline agent can see on the screen what is happening in the cloud.

"All of a sudden, imagine you run your servers in an infrastructure that is shared, and you only pay for your use of it, so you don't have to spend capital dollars for new equipment," says Ouillon -- because, as with any type of cloud, "it's shared, it's optimized." Airlines will be able to resell or recycle their existing servers, he says.

All of the more than 30 airlines SITA has spoken to are interested in this cloud model, not just for cost savings, Ouillon says, but for business flexibility and agility. "Imagine all of a sudden you can have your employees work from home or Starbucks, so if you get an ash cloud over Europe or a bird flu, you can very quickly configure desktops and servers in the cloud and continue to access your app from an iPad."

Ouillon says that SITA is "actively engaged with several airlines at the contract or RFI/RFP level, especially out of Asia and the Middle East."

Air transportation is hardly alone in realizing the benefits of moving to industry-specific clouds. The concept is also taking flight in such heavily regulated industries as finance and health care. The federal government has even gotten into the act, offering cloud computing services such as infrastructure as a service, web hosting, storage and virtual machines to agencies on its apps.gov website.

Banking on a financial cloud

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is also hedging its bets that a cloud exclusive to the trading industry will take hold. The regulatory environment in the financial services markets has changed in the last few years, leading firms, especially smaller ones, to look for new ways to comply with regulations while still providing value to their clients.

"There's a move toward more oversight of financial markets, so firms have to be able to react to that," explains Feargal O'Sullivan, vice president of platform development at NYSE Technologies, a division of the NYSE. "There's a general move toward more efficiencies and electronic trading; the trading floor and Wall Street with a little man passing tickets -- those days are gone." In addition, he says, there's been a change in the types of instruments traded, and an overall need to reduce costs.

Over the summer, NYSE Technologies formed a partnership with EMC Corp. and VMware Inc. that allows financial institutions direct access to NYSE's technology services through its newly developed Capital Markets Community Platform (CMCP). Wall Street firms that sign up for the platform can use NYSE Technologies' servers to gain access to research, including historical market data and analytics, that previously was stored on individual firms' networks. The platform is currently available in the U.S., and the plan is to expand it globally, beginning later this year in Toronto and Tokyo.

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