what does 'Cloud-ready' really mean?

It's almost a tradition nowadays that any article on Cloud starts with a definition of terms. I'd like to think that our readership is educated enough not to need my views on the differences between Public, Private, Community etc. so let me just give you this interesting link to Western Digital's 'My Cloud' .

Now that the term is being used to sell hard disks rather than a new way of providing IT services, perhaps it's time to focus on what customers actually want from the Cloud. 

how important are end-users for Cloud-services adoption?

'Customers' is another word that means many things. It's typically CIOs' budgets that pay for our services here at Orange, their customers are the business users of the IT services and it's those business units and their end-users (customers, staff and partners) that we all have to keep happy.

End-users generally just want things to work, wherever and whenever they need them and should be easy enough to use with no training. The Apple promise of 'it just works' has set expectations for enterprise applications.

End-users don't tend to worry too much about cost, that's a problem for CIOs and business units. Management and control become much more important the further you are away from the actual user. CIOs and business managers also worry a lot more about security and compliance than end-users.

Most of our customers now have some of their business units consuming public Cloud services, sometimes without IT being involved in the purchase of these services. Business applications like salesforce.com, SAP, and Microsoft Dynamics are often directly purchased by a business unit without any thought to the impact on existing infrastructure and IT governance.

Many IT groups are catching up with their business unit customers and are building their own private Cloud services which they will deliver alongside the public services in a Public/Private hybrid.

so why should we worry about our infrastructure being 'Cloud-ready' - surely everything comes over the Internet?

For a lot of Web applications, in most of the developed world, the public Internet can provide a wonderful user experience but for corporate applications, especially those with real-time components like voice and video (and in locations with poor infrastructure) customers are looking for performance that is simply not available over the Internet. As more applications move to the Cloud, customers need to understand their options for delivering the best user experience, wherever they are.

surely everyone will be accessing all applications via a mobile network on their smartphone/tablet/wearable device?

Talking to a group of CIOs recently we discovered a common view that there is a myth of the hyper-mobile being the standard user profile. In fact, for the foreseeable future, these CIOs expect the majority of their corporate users to be in an office, using a computer, for most of the time. They do not want to totally re-engineer all their systems to focus on what is a, significantly vocal, minority of users. 

so what makes an infrastructure 'Cloud-ready'?

As a minimum, I think we should ask for the following before we let a supplier apply a 'Cloud-ready' sticker:

  • is the infrastructure sensitive to the different performance needs of the various services delivered from a Cloud?
  • can the infrastructure demonstrate how it delivers the most appropriate level of service for each application?
  • can you measure the impact of the infrastructure on the end-user experience?
  • when something goes wrong do you have the processes in place to help solve the problem, even if the problem is not on the infrastructure itself?

so could network providers apply a 'Cloud-ready' sticker to themselves?

Network providers have a number of advantages because they started with connectivity, and are now building up their own Cloud infrastructure. One of those advantages is being able to identify where to build data centre capacity to give the best network performance to their own Cloud services. As an example, I was part of the business design team for Orange. Our Cloud infrastructure was built on the design philosophy of 'no more than 100 milliseconds from server to user, anywhere in the world'  and we have since invested in additional capacity to drive down network impact on user experience.

Having made our own infrastructure 'Cloud-ready' for corporate applications that we host and for realtime voice and video offers that we provide we have also started to bring other Cloud providers into the same infrastructure, notably with Microsoft

Network providers also think about the user experience for people who have no choice but to use the Internet. I have been working with Akamai and have been quietly taking advantage of Akamai's technology and intelligent platform to deliver the best user experience possible. Take a look at this visualization to see the kind of performance gains that are possible.

So, despite it being a much overused term, I would argue that network providers can be 'Cloud-ready'. 

What do you think?


Photo credit: © Texelart - Fotolia.com

Peter Glock

With management roles in sales, marketing, and strategy I have over 30 years in IT and telecoms specializing in transformation projects.