A recent CIO UK roundtable discussed the principals of private cloud computing in the enterprise. This roundtable was refreshing from the off, all present agreed that the economic and technology case for private cloud computing are strong and wanted to, and did, use this occasion to talk about key principals of the private cloud and how they can be utilised in their organisations.
The event was attended by a select group of CIOs representing the engineering world, sport, education, insurance, construction, telecommunications, local government and the CIO of one of the largest government departments in the UK. Two representatives from Microsoft with specialist consulting and private cloud experience also attended.
The event is held under Chatham House Rules, but each CIO revealed why the subject of the private cloud was of interest to them and their organisations. A CIO from the engineering sector has recently completed a major virtualisation programme and as he looks to implement the next level of ERP into his organisation he is keen to exploit private cloud opportunities to improve the efficiency of ERP. From the sporting world a CIO wants greater flexibility to cope with peaks and troughs in demand; a construction firm CIO is setting out an infrastructure refresh and wants to reduce the repetition that exists across his technology landscape. The CIO from the education world wants to move to a provision model that measures user's consumption accurately, while the CIO from a local authority described private cloud as a "logical step for local authorities to share more". His counterpart in Whitehall is as you'd expect pursuing a major cost reduction programme, while at the same time trying to reduce the silo nature of applications within government. This CIO has considerable scale and wants to use private cloud principals across the government to cut costs yet improve services.
In telecommunications the CIO is looking at private cloud to be an operational tool that will deliver greater stability across his global infrastructure, and his CFO sees private cloud as "sexy". Similarly our insurance CIO wants to use the private cloud as a way of delivering higher performance to applications, but as a highly regulated and personal data intensive business doubts a wholesale shift to cloud computing will take place.
Three key points were raised, shared and widely agreed upon by all those attending the CIO roundtable. The first area of debate what that private cloud computing has reached a level of maturity. This led to a discussion on the next stage for all the CIOs present and it was discussed widely and agreed that organisations need to analyse their application portfolio and be ruthless. Microsoft shared their experiences with a major logistics provider who decided to assess on the principals of:
- What applications we care about
- What applications are core to our unique business
- What applications are generic to all organisations
The attending CIOs all agreed this is an analysis they could all make and use to enable the organisation to widely accept that generic parts of their organisation would benefit from the private cloud.
Led by the Whitehall CIO the debate moved on to how private cloud fits into the organisation not necessarily as a wholesale replacement of legacy applications and business processes, but as a part of a process. Using the private cloud for parts of complex processes and transactions will still deliver significant benefits to the organisation. He used the example of a customer following an ecommerce transaction with a retailer. The customer will, during the process, actually move across different applications, secure hosted transaction services, logistics, catalogue sites and search engines. The user is rarely aware or cares that they are shifting from application to application, hosted or non-hosted; the experience always feels the same. This CIO believes that the principals of private cloud computing will be integrated into complex business processes in much the same way to increase organisational efficiency, reduce the number of applications organisations support and improve user experience.
He described the CIO's role in this new model as that of orchestration of services.
The role of the CIO and the IT department in a private cloud environment was raised and more than one attendee saw the CIO and department begin to reflect the same business model as an HR department. Just as HR no longer carries out the provision of staff, but does provide the governance, CIOs will follow the same course, allowing self-provision of technology, but ensuring corporate governance.
On the matter of costs, widely held to be the biggest advantage cloud computing offers, more than one CIO pointed out that the cost benefits are not always easily identified and realised.
The over-riding theme that became apparent from the discussion was that elements and principals of cloud computing will and is becoming prevalent in the enterprise architecture of organisations. Despite the hype from analysts and certain parts of the technology community that make brash claims that organisations will need to wholesale shift their technology to the cloud and rid themselves of IT departments and legacy applications, the truth is very different. All present faced regulatory pressures, some areas such as insurance and government are more stringent than others. The return on investment of existing legacy technology is a significant factor in CIO decision making and organisations are just too complex to be served purely by cloud technology. Private cloud is another useful technology to enable efficient business. CIOs are using it and will continue to do so where it delivers business benefits.