The great debate: Is cloud a game-changer?
By Carol Ko 20-Aug-2012
The panel discussion at the recent Cloud Tech Forum 2012 in Hong Kong pulled together three CIOs and a KPMG consultant to discuss a broad range of issues under the topic "The great cloud debate: Is cloud a new fundamental shift in enterprise IT?"
To kick-start the discussion, Chee-Sing Chan, group editor of Computerworld Hong Kong and moderator of the panel, asked if the panelists thought cloud computing was critical in transforming modern IT.
Charles Koh, formerly head of IT at Singapore-based Temasek Holdings, had in 2007 introduced private cloud to its company. It won him an award from EMC, Cisco and VMware in 2011 which recognized his initiative at Temasek as one of the "first private clouds built in Asia."
"The flip side is if you don't explore cloud, the senior executives will come and ask why they cannot get Facetime for $400 on an iPhone?"
-- Charles Koh, ex-CIO of Temasek Holdings
Interestingly, Koh said the investment company did not concern itself with whether cloud computing was being adopted. "What cloud has done is that it has forced IT to become more agile," he said. "The flip side is if you don't explore cloud, the senior executives will come and ask why they cannot get Facetime (a free video-conference mobile application) for $400 on an iPhone?"
"It becomes an impossible question to answer when the business then asks: 'Why are you asking me for a $1 million IT budget when we still don't have Facetime in the office?' So cloud computing is great in the sense that it enables executives to understand for the first time what [value] IT can bring [to the business] and how complex enterprise IT really is," he added.
In India, one of the country's largest conglomerates Essar Group started virtualization five to six years ago, and is now deploying cloud at many levels. To highlight a few examples, Essar Group uses VMware-based server virtualization, Microsoft Hyper-V based server virtualization, Microsoft Azure's public cloud service, and Citrix's VDI Desktop provisioning.
According to Jayantha Prabhu, Essar Group's CTO, private cloud is a polished notion of virtualization, but he expects cloud computing to bring "enormous" economic implications for the IT industry. "'Cloud computing' as a term may inspire some combination of fear, uncertainty and doubt, but effective 'sourcing' is ultimately the real objective of IT," he said.
From hybrid cloud to mobility
Similarly, Hong Kong-based Midland Realty's CTO Francis Fung has over the last few years built a private cloud for the company. Today, the 5,000-employee company is adopting Citrix's virtualization solution with 5,000 thin clients, covering all of Midland Realty's branches.
"Our next goal is, through using thin client, to adopt public cloud for communication purposes such as email. We have already built some in-house applications for the staff's use, including instant messaging and 'dropbox' for internal information sharing," Fung said.
"We are also working on mobility: every branch will have WiFi-connection, and all of our real estate agents can access both the internet and intranet using their own iPhones and iPads. We're also working on cloud-based VoIP (voice over IP). We have installed Cisco IP phones at all Midland's branches, all inter-connected with the thin client network. With these we expect to gain huge savings on network and equipment costs," Fung added.
Horror 'cloud' stories
KPMG's Director of Management Consulting James McKeogh made a sudden twist on the cloud discussion. He told the audience some "horror stories" that one of his clients experienced as they embarked virtualization.
"What happened was, they put in a virtual side, but continued to deliver from the old antiquated one. So it took them three months to provision a physical server because they had to buy the physical real estate, get a rack, etc," said McKeogh. "It took them three months to deliver a virtual environment because they were only buying only as much capacities as they needed right at that time. So they weren't embracing all the components [of cloud computing].
"Rightly so, cloud computing is nothing new and IT still needs to address the same old issues. But now, we're looking to address them by using outsourcing properly to its full extent -- by utilizing virtualization, which is about provisioning away from a hardware issue to more of a people technology-relationship," McKeogh added.