Cloud computing, for those still baffled by the term, is not a heavenly hotdesk but simply the storage and access of data and programmes over the internet instead of on your computer's hard drive.
The Cloud is merely a metaphor for the internet. So it’s not about your hard drive. Indeed, storing data on - or running programmes from - the hard drive is now known as local storage and computing.
Cloud industry itself, Phil Cambers agrees, is quite fuzzy – a computing resource that’s effectively pooled together only to be carved up again and syndicated out. It can be accessed through an on-premise Cloud, or through a public Cloud provider.
Cambers cites clients of his company at Cramlington - such as Banks Group, Sintons law firm in the North East or the Premier League in London – as examples of organisations that want control over their infrastructure but with benefits of Cloud. He elaborates: “If Banks Group for example has a new mining application requiring some mapping, it can with its on-premise Cloud structure create a new virtual server, and load that application onto the server within a few minutes.
“With a public Cloud, if it had no infrastructure on site, it could go to the public Cloud provider and request, in effect, to buy a bit of infrastructure on that Cloud.”
Which to opt for? Cambers says: “There are pros and cons to both. Pros of the private Cloud are that you own, manage and control it, whether for scheduled maintenance or other downtime. We manage that Cloud for the customer. They’re not really bothered about the infrastructure. They’re concerned about the applications.
“The public Cloud is very convenient in demanding no capital expenditure. But, unlike on-premise, there’s a significant ongoing expense in operating. Nothing in life is free. Unless I wholeheartedly put everything up into a public Cloud, I end up having some of my applications on-premise for security reasons. Then I get a situation where some applications I have on-premise need to talk to the Cloud based application. It just doesn’t work for many customers.
“We find 100 plus seat organisations are not interested in public Cloud. They want on-premise Cloud.”
There’s been a lot of market spin about Cloud, of course, with experts some of whom have vested interests predicting that by 2020 workloads on a public Cloud will form 13.6% against 12.5% in 2014. In SITS’ view that’s very small incremental growth.
As Cambers puts it: “If I’m betting on red or black I won’t be putting my chips on public Cloud. That said, if I was a small 20 or 30 seat law firm I probably would consider it. The upfront cap ex wouldn’t be there. I wouldn’t have to be bothered about managing IT. For a small company, public Cloud can be a real benefit. But public sector organisations won’t consider going on a public shared and syndicated Cloud.”
There are challenges of access in event of a disaster. Says Cambers: “Our clients in event of a disaster can remotely access from a data centre but it remains their kit. So effectively they have two private Clouds, all of that owned by them.
“Other companies in the sector are keen to push public Cloud. All I’ll ask is: had SITS only sold public Cloud in the last seven years would we be now a £6m company of 28 staff and not a client lost? I think that speaks for itself.”
“I think there’s a bit of a disconnect between academic IT courses and what the industry actually wants. Academia is churning out people with IT degrees and when they come to me I wouldn’t say they’re useless, but really there’s no course around virtualisation or Cloud. So I have to take in all they’ve learned then say ‘right, this is what I want you to do’.
“I think there is still a disconnect between education and industry in general. There needs to be more cohesion between the universities and the business community. I think industry has a little responsibility and a little bit of blame to take too. Sometimes we moan we are not getting the right candidates. But then we’re not willing really to get off our bums and tell the universities and other educational establishments what we’re actually looking for.
“So there’s a responsibility to business as well. I think with the traditional professions, like lawyers, there is probably quite a close connection. But in some of the emerging industries like IT where there isn’t a longstanding heritage yet, that’s where the biggest disconnection is.”