Looking for results? Look at the Cloud

It is fascinating to watch the trajectory of technologies. Some, like mobile banking, make a false start before staging a spectacular comeback; others such as social technologies hit the ground running and never look back, whilst others like the Itanium processor are destined for oblivion. 

The progress of cloud computing so far bears a strong resemblance to the human lifecycle: the excitement of birth, the wonder of discovery, the halting first steps and then stability. Come adulthood, and there’s the pressure of expectation. Will it reach 200 billion dollars? 500 billion? Or more perhaps?

Organisations’ first steps, like nervous first time parents, have taken diffident steps, experimenting with a stray application or non-critical processes on the cloud, until they’ve grown in confidence about what works for them, or doesn’t. 

Today, the cloud is on the cusp of maturity. Its potential is surely evolving into proven results - not merely lowering total cost of infrastructure ownership, or even realisation of a nondescript innovative solution but rather, big, influential results such as returning a man to the world’s most powerful job - President Obama in this case. 

The Obama campaign’s technology requirement, which has been likened to erecting a multi-billion dollar organisation within a very tight timeframe, just so it could undertake peak activity on a single day before being dismantled again, was powered by the Amazon cloud. On another continent, the private cloud supported 100 per cent of supply chain and 50 per cent of Ricoh’s European business. 

This enabled Ricoh to consolidate nine data centres into just two, providing an infrastructure for business growth while saving nearly a third of its cost, and significantly reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. 

In the Far Eastern, a leading Japanese financial services provider used the cloud to delight its high net worth customers and to boost business. Instead of relying on conventional day-end batch data processing to feed its financial advisors with critical customer information, the provider was able to arm its advisors with data in real-time, garnered from the cloud, so its high net worth customers could be advised on demand.  
As the cloud transitions to an adoption and result-generation phase, enterprise cloud understanding is also going through a parallel evolution. In July, this year, IDC surveyed over 300 large organisations in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to find that the majority have started their cloud adoption process. 

That being said, the IDC survey found that enterprises still have miles to go before they can claim to have arrived on the cloud; as only 38 percent of financial services firms and 53 per cent of telecom companies surveyed (two sectors which are meant to be at the forefront of cloud adoption) had a clear cloud strategy in place.

 One key objective of a strong cloud strategy is the intelligent and effective apportioning of the enterprise’s total IT assets - on-premise, and on private and public clouds. It is already clear that today’s dominant private cloud is steadily making way for a mixed, or hybrid environment in the majority of organisations. Integrating disparate clouds and orchestrating their performance to ensure that it all delivers the results it should, is then, the other goal of the cloud strategy.

What’s interesting is that most organisations today, whether they have a clear cloud roadmap or not, see the challenges that will come along with their hybrid cloud in the not so distant future. Yet, deep down, these enterprises already know that this very same hybrid cloud can deliver results that they could scarcely have imagined, let alone achieved, with past technologies. 

Hence, if you take retail firms for example, they are starting to grasp the importance of analysing big data in the cloud in real-time and using this insight to personalise products for a customer who’s holding the other end of the line. 

One the other hand, financial services companies are hoping to use the same capability to nail their security issues; and small but ambitious enterprises, across business verticals, believe that their time has finally come, because they will be able to access best of breed software solutions that they can never afford to license.

And, it is a mark of sagacity that they all acknowledge the need to gain a clear single-window enterprise view of their cloud ecosystem - throughout its create-adopt-manage life-cycle phases. 

Then comes the issue of using this to optimise their cloud setup by bringing in traceability, accountability for processes -  from provisioning to sustenance and, of course, effective governance. 

But getting there means charting a course that bears the enterprise through the key stages of cloud adoption, from developing a strategy and roadmap aligned with the overall IT strategy and business priorities, to leveraging learning from cross-industry success and failures and zeroing in on the optimal multi-cloud permutation.

I’m not surprised many businesses choose to ally with experienced partners to get where they want to go with confidence, ease and most importantly a greater assurance of success. Well, we all like the path ahead unclouded, even when it’s on the cloud.

Posted by Vishnu Bhat, Vice-President and Global Head, Cloud Services, Infosys

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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