As the adoption of cloud computing gains momentum in the Middle East, there is still a lot of confusion on account of the large number of offerings available.
For the past few years, cloud computing has been heralded as the next biggest trend in enterprise IT, with analysts from Gartner and IDC estimating an exponential growth of the cloud market, reaching a value of $72.9 billion by 2015.
Organisations across the Middle East are already approaching cloud solutions vendors with the hope of deploying a model, which will dramatically cut operational costs. While such discussions are well underway, there still is a fair level of confusion regarding the actual path to the cloud.
George DeBono, General Manager, Middle East & Africa at Red Hat says that one of the reasons behind this bewilderment is the sheer number of offerings available under the broad cloud umbrella. The wide array of cloud strategies and enabling technologies that have been made available in the past 12 to 36 months offer varying levels of performance in factors such as access, dynamic allocation, scalability, application hosting and management. It is no wonder then that IT managers are completely overwhelmed by the cloud clutter.
To achieve effective utilisation and cut the cost of procuring and managing physical servers, virtualisation has become the norm in large enterprises across the Middle East.
Virtualisation-related cost benefits, however, don't directly address the business need for more agile IT. Cloud computing on the other hand does this and it is time to transition from virtualisation to the cloud.
IT managers however need to be wary of hastily migrating to the cloud without a well thought up action plan because they risk needless expenditure on technologies which do not meet the unique requirements of the organisation. Or, the organisation may choose the right solution but fail to utilise it to the maximum potential because of an improper deployment.
Strategizing for successful private cloud deployments
If businesses decide for a path to cloud and an architecture for cloud on a company level, they should be taking into account that this will be a decision to last for 5-10 years.
Therefore, they should take into account to be able to be vendor neutral on their cloud architecture and their cloud management stack as much as possible, to not be locked-in into a single vendor or economic model and not to be locked-out of future regulations or innovation opening new possibilities in cloud.
In the near future, enterprises are likely to have IT infrastructures which involve a mix of physical, virtual and cloud-based resources deployed at either internal or external locations. Instead of thinking about each environment separately, organisations need to adopt a portfolio view of all of their IT resources. This will help IT managers determine what workloads will be best deployed in which environment. Also it will facilitate to improve process efficiency gains over all infrastructure silos.
Because of factors such as cost, flexibility and scalability, quality of service, physical location and lifecycle phase, each environment will have its own share of strengths and weaknesses. The portfolio view helps gain a perspective of this paving the way for the next phase of planning.
Organisations that have already opted for a high degree of virtualisation would already have a detailed list of hardware and software assets that have been identified for consolidation. Coupled with review of disaster recovery plans which would include a list of business-critical applications, this will create a snapshot of the organisation's existing workloads.
Evaluating cloud computing models
A good first step towards cloud computing would be to adopt a hybrid model which utilises resources already available in the organisation. However each cloud model offers it share of advantages and disadvantages which make certain models better suited to certain organisations.
Below are listed a number of considerations from Red Hat, which should be evaluated when selecting the cloud model.
Service Quality: Not all cloud providers offer arrangements which guarantee a contractual Service Level Agreement (SLA) with penalties. If quality of service and uptime is vital, such an agreement is an absolute must.
Hybrid Model: If the scalability requirements are high and dynamic in nature, the organisation may have to turn to a public cloud provider. If however peak in usage are predictable, the private cloud may still be a good option. It is to be expected though, that due to easier regulation and more community clouds coming up hybrid models will be more prevalent in the next few years.
Security and Compliance: For sectors such as banking, healthcare and government where security is of utmost importance, stringent limitations may rule out some cloud options. Risk tolerance and business criticality of workloads vary considerably among companies. Community clouds can be a good options for those enterprises.
Heterogeneous workloads: Although virtualisation abstracts applications from underlying resources, some cloud solutions work only with specific virtualisation technologies. Others are optimised for specific programming languages. These constraints may rule out some platforms that are limited to a specific technology.
Openness: Controlling the economics and deployment options for a cloud architecture is key to retain flexibility for the future. Infrastructure, Public Cloud and Virtualisation Deployment options should be wide, extensible and governed by a community. By abstracting away from this, enterprises can become through utility providers to their internal and external customers.
Whatever be the cloud model ultimately deployed, it is advisable that in the initial stages low priority workloads are first tested in the newly set up environment in order to ensure that it meets the performance and quality of services specifications. The benefits of lower operations costs, improved business agility and greater scalability and manageability make a compelling case for pursuing a private or hybrid cloud strategy.
Careful planning and evaluation are vital to success and by following the above guidelines, organisations can hit the ground running with a wide-scale cloud enterprise architecture, which is future-proof and open for the innovations to come.