In this special report, the editor of Manufacturing & Logistics IT Magazine, Ed Holden, interviewed 13 leading vendors from the world of IT software, hardware, consultancy and infrastructure to ask them what they consider to be many of the current key talking points within this fascinating technology space.
Demystifying the concept - Key selling points - What barriers to greater deployment remain - Serving the marketplace - The Cloud on the Horizon
(This article will run as a weekly series and look at Cloud Computing in 4 parts or you can link directly to the article in the digital edition of the magazine. Click here...)
Cloud computing is one of the most revolutionary paradigm shifts of recent times within the IT world. End-user organisations are now able to run their preferred software applications on a highly flexible, shared data centre in the Cloud (Internet), rather than having to configure, customise, test, run and regularly upgrade these apps on their own servers.
Champions of the Cloud architecture concept will also comment that this type of virtualisation enables companies to benefit from the rapid deployment of sophisticated, flexible and highly scaleable software solutions without having to commit to the up-front capital expenditure of the software licences. Instead, they are able to simply enter into a pay-per-use, monthly or quarterly billing arrangement with the vendor. But there remain some concerns related to security & confidentiality, compliance, quality of service, integration and long-term costs.
To begin, our commentators step up to the plate to offer their own definition of this often misunderstood term
Jimmy Harris- MD Cloud Computing, Accenture
In my role, the first thing I set out to do was put some guard rails around the definition of Cloud computing. We describe Cloud computing as a convergence and evolution of a set of technologies related to IT and virtualisation that have created the opportunity to lower the total cost of ownership for technology and enabled services. Cloud can significantly lower or eliminate the need for capital investment, offering greater flexibility in operational integration and pricing models. Cloud can mean much lower friction in terms of implementation time and effort.
Michael Klemen, discrete manufacturing & automotive Western Europe, Cisco
The point about Cloud computing is that there are so many definitions out there. It was only relatively recently when many of us were happy just to have a PC or laptop connected at home, or maybe connected within an office network. Today we are accessing IT-related services from practically everywhere. BMW, for example, is selling new cars with free access to the Internet for two years; so if you are driving and you want your mobile devices to be connected by Bluetooth you dont have to have it hard-connected into a telephony application; it is simply connected. When someone phones me it comes through the loudspeakers in the car and I can have a conversation. So, this is the type of service that connected people are expecting today and where the Cloud comes in; whether in the form of a personal Cloud, whether it is in terms of office applications within a private Cloud or in the form of the type of Cloud services.
Colin Bannister, VP, technical sales for UKI, Computer Associates
There are many different definitions of the term Cloud computing. However, in simple terms, for us it is about being able to get computing power on demand for as long as you need it, and then give it back when you have finished.
Ron E Brown, consulting and systems integration UK technical director, CSC
Cloud for us is a subtle evolution of technologies. Its nothing startlingly new in terms of technology, but its a completely different supply model for IT and business services characterised by more elasticity, speed and agility. And, most importantly, what defines Cloud computing is the fact that you can access the functionality of applications in the Cloud as a pay-as-you-go service, which has major potential cost-saving benefits for the user.
James Norwood, global VP of product marketing Epicor
I will try to demystify the whole concept of Cloud computing because, as usual in the IT industry, a complicated term comes along that make things sound a lot more involved than they actually are. Our definition is that Cloud computing is about buying IT capacity and applications as aided by a utility service provider. It is about the ability to go out and buy utility computing, scalability performance and business applications from a service provider. In some cases an application might even be available to source free of charge to source.
Steve Strutt systems architect, IBM
In a B2B sense, Cloud computing is a business model for the consumption of IT, built on the concept of actually exploiting high levels of automation and economy of scale and to deliver lower-cost services, and consequently greater business agility. Basically, it is very much a business evolution, and this is really what is going to make the difference.
Raghavan Subramanian, associate VP, Cloud Computing, Infosys
There are two main aspects; one is the public Cloud and the other is the private Cloud. Typically in the public Cloud you see providers such as Amazon, Salesforce.com, Microsoft Azure, etc., and applications or
storage services are available in the public Cloud platforms. The private Cloud on the other hand is managed by the user company and can be run in the companys own data centre using technology provided by its regular technology provider.
Steve Farr, product manager, Microsoft Dynamics
Whenever you have a new technology area there are always different definitions that suit different vendors. For me Cloud computing is about application functionality accessed purely and solely in the Cloud for whichever purpose, and probably interacting with a screen or other device that has locally running software. I think Software as a Service (SaaS) can be a bit of a red herring and my view is that Cloud computing is emerging as a better definition because it takes you away from licensing; something SaaS is intrinsically linked to.
Andrew Bond, core technology director, Oracle EMEA
The definition I prefer is that of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is completely vendor neutral. The definition refers to computers, networks, storage, applications and services and points to five core characteristics of the Cloud: on-demand self service, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, measured service ie. something that can be metered and charged back for and a broad level of network access ie. you should be able to get to these resources wherever they are.
The Institute then defines three service models:
1) Infrastructure as a Service
2) Platform as a Service
3) Software as a Service.
It also defines four deployment models: public, private, a private Cloud shared between a group of like minded organisations, and the hybrid Cloud the notion that you could split your data centre resources or your IT provision between public and private and reach out to the public Cloud whenever you need to.
Simon Black, managing director, Sage Pay
For us, there is a narrow definition and a broader definition of Cloud computing. The narrow definition is that an application is not sitting on a local PC or local device eg. a server, hard drive on a desktop or a smart phone. Rather than being accessed through whether a local browser, an application in the Cloud sits in a data centre remotely and is managed through a Cloud service provider such as Amazon or Microsoft. The functionality of the application is then available on demand; a bit like a utility such as electricity or gas.
Kaj Van De Loo, senior VP of technology strategy, SAP
We have defined three major areas that come under the term Cloud computing. The first is around the interface infrastructure as a service. This is the first big area where we have both partnership and development activities in progress. There is also the whole area of applications on demand; ie. software as a service or demand applications. The third area is something we call Cloud-based access to applications. So, even if you rely on a traditional on-premise based application you can now access that absolutely everywhere through all kinds of Internet functions, mobile networks, etc. We believe that by utilising the Cloud for all these kinds of connectivity all the networks that are out there we can significantly help our customers get more value out of their existing SAP systems.
Dave Carmichael, senior product marketing manager, Sterling Commerce
For me, the Cloud is in itself an abstract term, but we normally refer to it in terms of consuming services that are delivered using Internet-related capability, and which are both scalable and to some extent elastic. So, in essence, the Cloud is about the consumption of services delivered through technology in this form.
K Ananth Krishnan, VP and chief technology officer, Tata Consultancy Services
A Cloud is a set of shared IT capabilities that provide customers with scalable services through a very simple and easy-to-consume interface in an extremely granular, usagebased pricing model.
A Cloud computing model is generally characterised by:
A true on-demand computing paradigm.
Decoupling of application design and development from deployment.
Automated system deployment and scaling.
A pay-per-use pricing model.
Flexible access models.
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