Organisations need to be able to mix, match and integrate cloud services from different providers – including private clouds from their own IT departments – seamlessly and easily if they are to experience the true benefits of cloud computing.
That’s according to Albie Bester, GM of SEACOM’s cloud aggregation subsidiary, Pamoja. He says that many cloud providers and end-user organisations are still thinking about cloud services in much the same way as they thought about application service provider (ASP) offerings.
In other words, they believe that any application simply hosted in a data centre and offered across a network connection is a ‘cloud service’. This is not the case since true cloud computing has many other defining characteristics, one of the most important being openness to integration with other services.
Another defining attribute of genuine cloud computing is that it is scalable and elastic. Companies need to be able to turn on more services or processing power and provision more users when they need to. The core infrastructure should allow one to swap to a different service or infrastructure when necessary.
Says Bester: “In a genuine cloud model, it should be quick and simple for the customer to add value to a cloud service by adding ancillary services from other providers. Any service provider that does not offer its customers this level of flexibility is not offering a cloud, but an island. Enterprises must have the freedom to consume cloud services in the way that matches their needs.”
Cloud computing has the potential to change the way IT is perceived in organisations, Bester notes. Instead of being a facilitator of hardware and software, the IT department can become an enabler for better business.
For this to happen, IT organisations need to think about the cloud in a more mature manner, embracing it as a strategy to enable business agility into the future rather than using it as a tactic to save money, Bester says. The cloud is not about saving a few rand a month, but rather about adding long term business value.
“The cloud is not just about providing services companies already have more cost-effectively, but also about providing new solutions that enable business growth. It should be open-ended enough for companies to quickly provision new users and services when they need to respond to an opportunity or change in the market,” he adds.
From enterprise customers’ point of view, they want cloud services that are secure, easy to use and that meet their compliance goals, says Bester. What they don’t want is the complexity of managing and integrating multiple cloud providers and services. The cloud services they buy should not have arbitrary limitations – for example, restrictions on usage in certain countries – and they should provide a consistent look and feel wherever they are used.
Bester says that the African market is likely to embrace the cloud rapidly, now that infrastructure such as undersea cables and national networks are in place.
“With the connectivity ready, the cloud is the quickest way to African companies to provide sophisticated solutions and services to their employees and companies. Companies heading for the cloud should make sure they’re partnering with providers who can support their needs for flexible and open solutions into the future,” he concludes.