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Assess business needs first before cloud move

Cloud computing cuts costs and frees up manpower, but companies must evaluate business needs before deciding to adopt platform, analyst advises.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Cloud infrastructure and services are attracting much attention for its easy, on-demand accessibility and promise to reduce operating costs, but enterprises must identify their business needs first before adopting the platform.

According to Avneesh Saxena, group vice president of IDC Asia-Pacific's research domain group, enterprises should "set firm goals in order to assess the right course forward". "The important thing is to start developing an IT framework, and not get hanged up on public or private cloud," he said, during his keynote at IDC's enterprise cloud conference here Thursday.

The size of the company size and the industry segment it plays in, are some key factors that determine the complexity of data center coverage it needs. These can also help establish the kind of cloud computing services and capacity the organization needs to incorporate into its IT environment, noted Saxena.

Hemant Shah, IBM's Asean executive for infrastructure business, systems and technology group, added that companies should also identify "workloads" that work well with public as well as private cloud networks.

Also a speaker at the IDC event, Shah referred to an IBM cloud computing study conducted in July 2009, which revealed that audio, video, Web conferencing, service helpdesk and data storage, were some of the workloads suited for public cloud computing. On the other hand, security and business continuity and disaster recovery programs were deemed to be more suitable in private clouds.

However, before the deployment of cloud computing services can grow, service vendors need to help prospective companies build a viable returns on investment (ROI) model, said David Rosengrave, practice manager of IT solutions and global services, Verizon Business. "We really need to help our customers build a business model or ROI that really stacks up," added Rosengrave, also a presenter at the event.

Shah also noted that the motivation to adopt these services have to be driven by the enterprises and their business strategies. He added that cloud computing is "not a socially aware" issue, but one very much derived from "business and technology" and should be driven from these factors.

Securing the cloud
Another issue that has affected cloud adoption among enterprises is security.

Companies are wary of placing sensitive information on public servers, primarily because the existing infrastructure does not assure compliance with regulatory policies during the shift to cloud. Businesses also worry about the lack of control over IT systems that are managed by external service providers in a cloud model, since corporate data will be stored in public servers.

Rosengrave said: "Compliance and where the data is kept will probably be the biggest factor in terms of who can utilize the cloud, and probably the number one thing that customers should look into. And I don't know if there's enough clarity around right now." He added that while security checks can be built into public clouds, there will still be organizations that will "perceive" this to be insufficient.

However, Shah noted that the "Internet has had security problems from day one"--and that has yet to be resolved--but this has not stopped people from using the medium to perform transactions that involve sensitive data such as e-commerce.

"For each kind of activity, there is a level of security that is acceptable or tolerable. And this is what will happen to cloud as well," he said. "We just have to start off with that."

According to Aylwin Lam, Asean senior consultant at F5 Networks and conference speaker, security concerns have also not slowed adoption among companies in emerging markets including India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines.

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