There are almost as many reasons for choosing public, private or hybrid clouds, as there are potential combinations of them, as FSN writer Lesley Meall discovers
When RTC Relationship Marketing wanted to improve its project financial reporting and the service it offers to customers it opted for NetSuite OpenAir professional service automation software. When Bang & Olufsen wanted to improve access to office productivity tools, the digital media maker took a ‘software plus services’ approach with Microsoft Office 365. For China’s Bank of Communications, integrating and improving customer data meant deploying its event-based marketing solution in a private cloud on the Teradata Active Enterprise Data Warehouse platform. Whilst Brilig, the online marketplace for display advertising, has been able to decrease its infrastructure costs and increase its performance by using GoGrid to support a hybrid cloud approach.
Revolutionary assertions that all IT resources will eventually be delivered ‘as a service’ using public clouds are being made less and less as a more evolutionary reality becomes apparent. ‘Many organisations have now passed the definitional stage of cloud computing and are testing cloud architectures inside and outside the enterprise, and over time, cloud will simply become one of the ways that we “do” computing, and workloads will move around in hybrid internal/external IT environments,’ says Chris Howard, managing vice president at the analyst firm Gartner. Some organisations already take a mixed approach that exploits the resource delivery models that best meet their computing needs.
RTC Relationship Marketing wanted to improve accountability by pushing project financial reporting down to the manager level, rather than just the CFO, Maureen Quattroki, who says: ‘NetSuite empowers our employees to more tightly integrate their time and billings into RTC's financials which is critical for our success, and it provides a greater level of accountability and reliability for the operations of the firm and the billings and invoices delivered to customers.’ But the success of the system may have less to do with its cloud deployment and more to do with its capacity to streamline invoicing processes and automate reconciliation with its back-end financials system, which were not possible with the spreadsheets that preceded it at RTC – which also uses a number of on-premise software applications.
Bang & Olufsen has long outsourced some systems and their support. Its SAP ERP was managed and hosted by IBM from 2000 until 2010 when it was moved to the Danish consultancy Novo Nordisk IT (NNIT) and switched to a Microsoft Windows infrastructure. Some applications are run on servers at the B&O shared services centre, though it recently replaced one of these (Lotus Notes) with MS Office 365. “When we investigated whether we should continue relying on internal servers we realised that we could save money by going to the cloud,’ says Ole Damsgaard, senior director of IT, as well as improving access to productivity tools among B&O’s workforce. Although 1500 of B&O’s 2000 employees work remotely, only the 150 with company-issues smartphones could access Lotus Notes.
The phrase ‘horses for courses’ seems apposite. For both Bank of Communications (which has opted for a ‘hosted’ data warehouse private cloud) and Brilig (which has opted for a ‘hybrid hosting’ service that mixes dedicated and virtual servers) the decisions to utilise these cloud delivery models had more to do with scale, availability and data integration, and how important this is to the ‘customer-facing services’ affected. ‘Before this project, we were unable to collect a complete set of customer information, because of the data inaccuracy caused by multiple data sources and quickly changing data,’ says the head of the project at the Bank of Communications, which has consolidated multiple data warehouse servers onto a Terada private cloud; whilst Brilig is able to meet peaks in demand without tying up its own resources.
GoGrid is one of the growing numbers of ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ providers that allow their customers to choose between vanilla ‘public cloud’ services and dedicated hosted services. ‘You get a security advantage when using dedicated hardware to store data,’ says Mark Kemna, Brilig’s chief technology officer, and hardware load balancing means that the dedicated hardware also runs Brilig’s software efficiently. But the biggest benefit is performance, because the set-up at GoGrid means that Brilig take advantage of the immediacy of on-demand horizontal scaling. Whether all organisations can look forward to a future where internal and external IT resources are provided by a combination of public and private clouds remains to be seen, but according to Gartner’s Howard: ‘Hybrid is the new IT and it’s here to stay.’