Cloud computing strategy guide (Part 2)

Cloud may speed the construction of new capabilities and services, but Australian IT leaders may well be building castles in the sky

Recognising the power of Cloud-delivered services, especially in quickly getting new capabilities online, many enterprise software vendors have made a wholesale commitment to the Cloud. That’s offering tantalising promise for companies that have struggled to implement business analytics systems, for example, across their in-house systems; accessing analytics as a platform, rather than implementing it as a bespoke project, promises unprecedented visibility of enterprise data.

This article is part one of a two-part series on Cloud computing. Read Cloud computing strategy guide (Part 1)

“The private Cloud trend has really consolidated thinking,” says James Foster, chief technology strategist with business-intelligence vendor SAS. “We’re seeing business customers understanding the benefits of an analytics platform from the people, process, and insight perspectives.

Rather than cutting costs, it’s now about driving value and getting away from the individual or departmental silos of the past.” SAS has already chalked up early wins with long-time customers like Telstra, which has leveraged Cloud-based analytics in a project to speed analytics-based marketing. A process that took 11 hours on an internal platform, where the poorly optimised process was previously running, now completes in less than a minute thanks to having the full attention of a scalable, optimised Cloud-based data environment.

Many organisations will find procedural fit with companies like Kaggle, a Cloud-based analytics provider that has already chalked up a big win after helping the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to construct and execute a massively data-intensive competition based on modelling traffic congestion on Sydney’s roads.

Rather than hosting the data and analytics itself, Kaggle commissions servers via the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and storage space via Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to handle the load.

This allows its online analytics model to scale as large as needed without requiring additional infrastructure in its own business — and at a total cost just a fraction of that necessary to achieve such analysis through conventional means.

“This kind of data analytics would have previously required the support of an external consultant,” says CEO Anthony Goldbloom. “A six-figure bill for this work would not be uncommon. But we can leave data in the Cloud and take the code to the data.”

While increasingly mature Cloud providers may be ready to go, IT leaders considering public Cloud solutions face a raft of governance obstacles, privacy law concerns, and other business restrictions that will force enterprises to tread carefully and in full consultation with data-management authorities. The last thing you want to do is outsource a major analytics initiative to a Cloud provider then find that provider goes out of business or, even, is brought offline for several hours due to an external attack or catastrophic systems failure.

Over time, such complexities will no doubt be resolved through the sheer persistence of dedicated advocates within both business and IT organisations.

Research firm IDC, for one, has directly linked Cloud adoption with business profitability, arguing that the exodus of technology complexity — first through its assimilation into private Clouds, then by being jettisoned, piecemeal, to external providers — will become necessary to keep internal IT organisations from tripping on their own shoelaces.

Thankfully for IT strategists, executive perception of Cloud computing has improved dramatically over the past year: “It was viewed as a technology before, and for most organisations it’s seen as an extension of their outsourcing strategy,” says Chris Morris, Asia-Pacific director of Cloud services and technology research with IDC. “It was new and took a while to be understood, but now it’s being considered in almost every deal as one of the options to acquire resources or deliver services.”

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