Cloud computing is not a new concept that has been sprung on us. “It is an evolutionary path that we’ve been on for years.

Markham ParenzeeMarkham Parenzee

All the progress technology has been making has come together to form a model we are now calling ‘the cloud’,” says Markham Parenzee, business development executive, Global Technology Services at SA.

Business, swayed by the muchtouted benefits of cloud computing, would be well advised to construct its infrastructure on a strong set of architectural principles in order to meet the five tenets of cloud  computing as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) model, says EMC Consulting’s Manisha Bhoola, solutions principal for EMEA South.

Parenzee agrees: “Standardise, virtualise, consolidate. These are steps business has been taking.  Then we added automated provisioning, and the ability to track usage, based on who you are, which  resource has been used, and for how long. Mainframes have had this forever – it’s not a new concept,  but now it is being applied to the whole infrastructure, and that’s the difference.”

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Phased approached

“Before beginning the journey to the cloud, organisations need to do a full assessment of where they  are. Enabling the NIST characteristics will always start with the virtualisation layer when building a  private cloud infrastructure. Often, organisations are stuck on low-key applications. Their virtualisation  deployment must be extended, flexibility must be added, and stringent processes need to govern their  virtualisation strategy,” she says.

A properly constructed virtualised infrastructure will give organisations the ability to automatically  become more proactive – rather than relying on reactive management, says Bhoola. “Consolidation,”  says Parenzee, “allows organisations with data centres dispersed country-wide to benefit in both the  short and long-term.

In the short term, savings on power, management, and costs will be realised. In the longer term  – and if combined with a standardisation plan – organisations can start gearing up for maximum  efficiencies as they take these steps toward the cloud model. When workloads are consolidated and  applications standardised, organisations will be in a position where they can implement resource  provisioning.”

Process and strategy

It is essential, says Bhoola, to ensure your operations support your virtualisation strategy. “For a private  cloud to offer an organisation maximum benefit, sometimes changing or upgrading company processes  is necessary. The IT “shop” in the organisation can begin to run IT as a business.

“It is in this phase of the process that businesses can start introducing self-service portals, which assist with the automation and provisioning of services. Additionally, IT needs to do a full assessment of the  organisation’s applications, and determine whether they are cloud-ready. Management tools need to  adhere to ITSM best practices, and must comply with common architecture requirements.

”From A to B Whether migrating to a public or private cloud, a key consideration mainly impacting the  medium-sized business is that infrastructure that used to live onsite, will now be moved offsite, says Jeff  Fletcher, founder of Three6five. A major prohibitive factor as far as enabling infrastructure goes,  connectivity remains a key consideration for organisations. “In a traditional environment, your back end  infrastructure remained onsite.

Connectivity would have been through a layer two network, with fibre connectivity and fast Ethernet.  When browsing outside of that corporate link, organisations start to experience bottlenecks. When  making a decision on whether migrating to cloud is feasible, consider if the capacity in layer three links  will provide the same level of usability when accessing core applications.

“Additionally, connectivity is very expensive in South Africa. While the cost of bandwidth is set to  decrease, organisations need to monitor data usage on their LANs before committing to a cloud migration,” says Fletcher.

Stop using client applications, and start using the Web-enabled versions of the applications while still on  the local network, he advises. “This will allow an accurate assessment of how much data is  consumed, and allow users to get used to the Web-based version.” Another serious consideration is redundancy. “If the metro fibre link breaks, is it a single point of failure or is there a second link built in? 

This is a hidden cost that organisations often miss – the potential loss in productivity if a business is  reliant on a single connection could amass enormous cost.”