Education, planning, and time are required before cloud solutions are realised

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Bennie Langenhoven" src="" />Number one on ’s 2011 list of “Top Strategic Technologies” is cloud computing. It is estimated the worldwide cloud computing market is $8 billion, with predicting the software as a service  (SaaS) market will hit $14 billion in 2013.

However, a recent Techaisle survey of small businesses within US, UK, Germany, Italy, and Brazil shows that only 37% of them have heard about cloud computing. Among those who have, 13% said that they did not know what it meant. Of the respondents, 44% think cloud computing means subscribing to services. Less than a third (29%)  think it means access to applications over the Web.

Locally, there is much work to be done before true cloud adoption becomes a reality. While  organisations are still grappling with cloud computing conceptually, practically, offerings are still  somewhat thin. “Cloud is not cloud unless it includes essential characteristics,” says CA’s solution  strategist for cloud computing, . “There is not a single service provider in South Africa that  complies with the NIST essential characteristics of cloud computing.”

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The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) definition  of cloud computing has become the de facto standard, and demands of a cloud model: on-demand  self-service (allowing users unilateral provisioning of computing capabilities); broad network access; resource pooling (including storage, processing, memory, network bandwidth, and virtual machines);  rapid elasticity (capabilities provisioned to quickly scale out and in); and measured service (where  resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported on, providing transparency for both provider  and consumer).

Locally, says Bennie Langenhoven, managing executive of Tellumat Communication Solutions, we’re not quite ready “for fully-fledged cloud solutions. Many applications have not yet been developed for cloud  delivery, and cannot be placed in a virtualised environment. Additionally, customers are simply not comfortable with having all their computing off-site, and until a more competitive telecoms environment comes about, we will continue to suffer low bandwidth at high cost, putting the cloud some way off in the distance.”

However, continues Langenhoven, “in the face of demands for higher performance at lower cost, cloud  computing cannot be beaten for efficiency.” Yet currently, says Jonathan Clarke, BDM: alliances and  VCE lead at EMC Southern Africa, “IT is cumbersome. Business needs to transform IT to become more  efficient, and cloud computing offers that solution. It offers innovation - and rapidly, at a reduced cost. Cloud is agile, effective, and efficient.”

Adopting cloud, however, does not happen easily, or quickly. “Pain points must be established, as must  business needs, for a short, medium, and longterm journey to the cloud to be mapped,” says Clarke. “It’s  an extensive process that will enable a smooth transition from physical infrastructure to a virtual  cloud infrastructure.”

Adoption While pundits have different notions on the time frame to “true” cloud adoption, “service  providers who are late to market in getting onto the cloud bandwagon will see their customer base  erode away,” says James. “Moving from a Capex to an Opex base will change the business’ financial  model, and Capex costs are something the SME must avoid at all costs.” Although, Capex costs are not
entirely avoidable, says , Interactive Intelligence territory manager for South Africa.

“Hosting a solution in the cloud does not eliminate the requirement for configuration and functional specs – there is a cost for deployment. While Capex is significantly reduced, a change of attitude is required  towards cloud computing. Consumers seem to think that because it provides rapid elasticity and  scalability, deployment time is similarly instantaneous, and Capex is eliminated. However, whether  cloudbased or on-site, the time taken to deploy is exactly the same – and requires the same amount of effort.”

According to Clarke, the process for cloud-readiness must include consulting and technology  integration. “These steps are critical in helping customers address the challenges they face when planning, implementing, and scaling their private cloud environment, inclusive of backup and recovery,  business continuity, disaster recovery, management, and the transition of tier one applications to the virtual infrastructure.”

Business needs to speed their transition to a private cloud environment in order to take advantage of  the benefits of cloud. Says Continuity SA’s , GM for business continuity – hosting services,  “Cloud computing has and will change the way business continuity providers deliver infrastructure  recovery solutions. By subscribing to infrastructure or platform as a service environments, server  rebuilds that took days can now take minutes.

Companies can have access to complete managed recovery solutions, which would have been unaffordable three years ago.” Yet for all the promised benefits, solutions need to be carefully evaluated in conjunction with infrastructure requirements and the organisation’s roadmap before commitments are  made. “The reliability of certain cloud solutions has not been ideal,” says Natsis. “Service providers  have selected solutions which have not met maturity, which has damaged the market, and created a further barrier to entry. It is necessary for solution providers to sit down with customers and educate  them, show them the calculations, and gain trust.”