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SPECIAL REPORT: Hybrid transformation of the cloud

SPECIAL REPORT: Hybrid transformation of the cloud

The staged migration of a hybrid cloud model is finding favour in vertical markets.

For one of the world’s largest producers of zinc as well as a substantial producer of copper, lead, gold and silver, moving towards a hybrid cloud computing environment was a no-brainer.

Minerals and Metals Group (MMG) decided to adopt a hybrid cloud computing environment – and inked a four-year multimillion-dollar IT contract with HP – to not only save costs but to help increase the group’s operational efficiency and responsiveness.

MMG’s operations include the Century mine in Queensland, the Golden Grove underground base and precious metals mine in Western Australia, the Rosebery mine in Tasmania, the Avebury nickel mine in Tasmania and the Sepon copper and gold operations in Laos.

HP South Pacific, head of enterprise cloud services, David Fox, said HP will provide agile cloud and infrastructure services, enabling the company to become an “instant-on enterprise.”

The MMG model encompasses a mix of traditional datacentre hosting services for common business-critical applications, with cloud-based services for backend operational applications. A standardised infrastructure platform at sites, centrally managed, will enable consistent service levels to be achieved across remote mining locations.

Fox said in order for an organisation to gain the benefits of a hybrid environment they must have an IT delivery model that is flexible across different sourcing options, but managed as an integrated technology environment.

He said we’re seeing the evolution of cloud computing with enterprise and government finding it useful in a “fit-for-purpose” scenario.

“Customers adopting the hybrid delivery construction need to capitalise on existing investments,” Fox said. “The move to a hybrid construct is finding out where and when a cloud model is best applied.”

He said some key questions when choosing a hybrid model include: assessing the aging of the infrastructure – are assets being sweated beyond the refresh date; what systems are most critical; how do you handle the personnel part of things; what is required in the change activity forecast; what are the key and strategic licensing decisions, and what is the level of third-party support.

Vertical play

Brocade Communications regional director, Graham Schultz, said the advent of the hybrid cloud model frees companies from having to build their own datacentres from the ground up.

“The hybrid cloud model also provides an unprecedented level of business agility, with a comfort level that helps organisations retain control over their data assets while extending to the public cloud in a secure, high-performance manner when it makes sense to do so from a business perspective,” Schultz said.

While there are opportunities across the board, industry experts would agree select verticals is the big area of play for a hybrid cloud environment.

HP’s Fox said government, including state and federal, is very active in the hybrid transformation because services can be tailor-made for each government department. Financial services, a heavily regulated sector, is another market eyeing the hybrid benefits, and willing to take the walk provided IT providers can deliver a certain level of security and key criteria and address the risk, he added.

For many customers, it’s not “an all-in approach” at the moment, agreed Cisco datacentre practice manager Dylan Morison. “It’s a combination of on-premise and private.”

Driving cloud adoption in Australia is the great acceptance of server virtualisation, Morison said.

“Customers have moved down the virtualisation journey, seen the cost savings and greater agility side, and now want to free up more resources and are looking at the benefits of a cloud environment.”

Customers are interested in a pay-per-use model and categorising services – perhaps applications like email, laptop, desktop or collaboration.

If partners can get through the whole hype of cloud – “because it does scare some customers off” – and offer targeted and specific services and applications to the customer base they will offer real value and be able to differentiate.

Cisco is pitching three cloud-specific channel programs to help partners enhance their professional services capabilities and accelerate their evolution to selling end-to-end communications and IT solutions or architectures: Cloud Builder; Cloud Provider; and Cloud Services Reseller.

Agreeing the vertical play is hot at the moment, Hitachi Data Systems ANZ director pre-sales and CTO, Adrian De Luca, said partners should look for opportunities in vertical markets like mining, entertainment or media and pre and post-production.

“These customers have very different requirements than commercial organisations and need the help of a partner,” he said. Through the hybrid cloud approach, De Luca said one Hitachi customer in the post production/ visual effects industry has utilised the hybrid cloud model effectively and been able to dramatically lower costs while avoiding the headache in building serious computing infrastructure.

To ensure that cloud migrations are successful, he recommends that the channel works with customers to consider the following: whether the customer is deploying virtualisation to its fullest extent, to deliver on-demand cloud services; what the expectations are around adopting a cloud environment, so that the right best practices and service level agreements are developed adequately; and what the plans are for utilising services from external sources to meet its business needs.

Security concerns

The hybrid transformation is not without some challenges. It can be a headache deciding what to put on the public cloud, what to keep internal and how to put together the infrastructure to create a seamless experience for workers.

CA Technologies’, national customer solutions unit, senior director, Carl Terrantroy, said partners can help a company transition to the hybrid cloud and get the “house in order” by doing a security audit. Determining who has access to what is the first step.

“If consuming public cloud in a private-cloud environment implement user identity technology (federation). Implement a change process. The next step is to assess the data. What data are you putting up in the cloud? Is it sensitive? Can data go into a hybrid model where it may wander into a public cloud.”

Once the audit is done, he said partners can add additional value in four key areas: data movement, whereby a partners needs to be aware of how to control the information flow and restrict it (can a user move to another cloud? can they move to a mobile device?); identify the privilege of users (what sorts of control mechanisms does the cloud provider have?); ensure authentication into the clouds (whether public or private); and determine what type of transactions or workloads are running in those environments.

Also acknowledging the security angst, EMC marketing CTO, Clive Gold, said he’s heard many “war stories” from customers who went to the public cloud, “where it looked good until something happened.”

Now more than ever, customers are now looking for guidance and reassurance from channel partners about the hybrid approach – and full cloud migration - and how they can overcome data sovereignty angst and other security concerns.

Gold said partners are in a great position to help companies make the cloud transition and offer up services integration.

“The traditional reseller models are starting to change and people need new skills,” he said, explaining how partners are increasingly moving towards becoming cloud architects. “Whenever there’s a change to the market the channel is the source of expertise. It’s never been a better time for the channel.”

In the meantime, standards work is underway thanks to an open consortium, a group of organisations aiming to develop an open-based software interface to the cloud.

Citrix Systems ANZ director of product sales, Bede Hackney, agreed there are a few main issues and concerns from a networking perspective that need to be addressed ahead of making a commitment to adopt a hybrid cloud.

“Determine how virtualisation of networking infrastructure will help enterprises architect private clouds initially and prepare for the move to hybrid clouds; and how virtual networking appliances can fundamentally change datacentre design and can give your organisation a platform to leverage private/public and hybrid cloud tools,” he said.

Hackney said partners also need to consider the legal jurisdictions of where the service is being provided, whether it meets the organisation’s privacy requirements; as well as how products such as Citrix Open Cloud Bridge integrate key network technologies to provide user and location transparency, performance optimisation and secure network connectivity - capabilities needed to build hybrid clouds that span on and off-premise datacentres. 


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Tags datacentreCA Technologieshybrid cloudCitrixMinerals and Metals Group (MMG)ciscoBrocade Communicationscloud computingemcHPhitachi data systems

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