By Carol Ko 02-Mar-2012
Cloud computing, an IT delivery approach that frees companies from heavily capital outlays, opens up opportunities for business start-ups that seek short time to market while operate on limited budgets.
"The cloud computing model can be particularly advantageous to businesses across the board as it allows for low cost access to the necessary computing resources and infrastructure. At the same time, they do not need upfront capex to purchase new computers, licenses, professional services for installation and ongoing maintenance and support of same," said Paul Grady, Microsoft's director of Azure cloud services vendor-Asia.
"Cyberport plans to set up a cloud infrastructure, which will provide three-tier self-provisioning cloud services to the Cyberport incubatees, Cyberport tenants, ICT SMBs, as well as educational institutions."
-- David Chung, CTO, Hong Kong Cyberport
In Hong Kong, the government-owned Cyberport helps business start-ups to drive cloud computing development through different initiatives, one of which being the Cyberport Incubation Programme.
Aiming at nurturing local ICT (information and communications technology) professionals, the Cyberport Incubation Programme provides financial assistance, support and services to local and overseas start-ups. These take the form of fixed-amount subsidies, rent-free office space, facilities, technology support and marketing funds. For example, Cyberport provides a one-off subsidy of up to HK$530,000 (US$68,335) to a start-up registered in Hong Kong with an office on-site (pictured above)"
As of September 2011, the Cyberport Incubation Programme has admitted 122 applications out of 324 applications received, leading to a total employment of 674 headcounts.
According to Cyberport' Chief Technology Officer David Chung, Cyberport has recently identified cloud computing and Web 3.0 as the key technology areas to be developed in Hong Kong.
"Cyberport plans to set up a cloud infrastructure, which will provide three-tier self-provisioning cloud services to the Cyberport incubatees, Cyberport tenants, ICT SMBs, as well as educational institutions," Chung said. "With technology training and strategic partnerships, Cyberport is active in evaluating the latest cloud computing technologies and solutions with technology partners like Cisco, Beijing Cloud Valley, Rackspace and Amazon Web Services."
Cyberport has also recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), a local government research and development body that focuses on applied technologies. "Effective from January 2012, the MOU focuses on the collaboration of development and standardization in ICT areas, with the hope of strengthening their cooperation in the fields of technical exchange, technology development and standardization in ICT areas including cloud computing," Chung said.
Asia Web Services, a Hong Kong-based cloud hosting provider established in 2007, provides cloud hosting services in Hong Kong, China and other parts of Asia. Targeting at small and medium businesses (SMBs), the company provides applications hosting services including Website, email and other Web-based applications that potentially consume large amounts of computing resources on demand.
In March 2010, Asia Web Services joined the Cyberport Incubation Programme, through which Cyberport helped start-ups to arrange networking meetings and support their business development activities through trade shows. According to Nikhil Agrawal, director of Asia Web Services, "Their [Cyberport's] support has helped us and made it easier [for us] as an ICT startup."
Asia Web Services' Agrawal said the company chose cloud computing as their business focus because "it was a new technology and trend that was just coming to Asia, and would fill a gap that existed in the current hosting market between shared and dedicated hosting." "We saw that there would be huge potential as cloud computing and hosting offer greater benefits and power resources than traditional hosting, at just a fraction of the cost."
Asia Web Services' customers, which are mostly SMBs, usually start with signing up for a medium sized plan (with 512MB RAM, and 50 GB Disk Space) [to host] their Web applications. "As their businesses grow they scale up their resources on demand. This is the beauty of cloud computing -- it matches your business growth and helps to create a greener IT environment as computing power will not be wasted," said Agrawal.
The three biggest concerns of Asia Web Services' cloud hosting service customers are security, downtime and connectivity, Agrawal said. "We have addressed all three concerns by providing top-notch support system and connectivity within Asia. For security we have stringent processes in place so that not one virtualized container can affect another."
"In the future, the company plans to provide more featured offerings on our cloud technology with API's (application programming interfaces) to let customers directly interact with our cloud system. Along with that we will have more offerings with Web-based applications and software-as-a-service," Agrawal said.
Bernie Trudel, chairman of Asia Cloud Computing Association and cloud CTO of Cisco Systems APAC, said Asia on the whole "is still at the early stage of adoption so we expect to see all types of hot spots" in terms of cloud computing adoption.
"For example in some countries like Japan, we are seeing a strong acceptance of cloud computing by consumers and SMBs but little adoption amongst larger private and public enterprises. In Australia, on the other hand, we are seeing a greater level of acceptance of cloud services across the whole spectrum of enterprises but not so much by consumers," said Trudel.
"For cloud start-ups, exposure, exposure, exposure. For SMBs I would advise getting beside a mentor who has experienced going to cloud."
-- Bernie Trudel, chairman of Asia Cloud Computing Association
"In India we are witnessing a greater level of acceptance of infrastructure-as-a-service, while in China the market seems to be driven more by software-as-a-service. We expect the adoption rate to mature over the next two to three years as the benefits of cloud computing become more apparent," he added.
Here is Trudel's advice for businesses that are starting to build cloud computing capacity at their organizations: "Like most new paradigms in IT, developing cloud computing as part of the overall IT strategy is the best way forward. For cloud start-ups, exposure, exposure, exposure. For SMBs I would advise getting beside a mentor who has experienced going to cloud."
"Moving to cloud is not an all or nothing big bang approach, pick what you want to move or build and do it in a way that works for you and your customers," advised Microsoft's Grady to cloud computing business start-ups. "If you treat cloud as an augmentation to what you currently have in terms of process, market and reach, you will find that it can create new markets and new opportunities that may not have been possible with a typical on premise solutions."
Cloud computing is a new IT delivery methodology, not a separate technology category, said Trudal. "Although it [cloud computing] leverages new IT technologies in order to achieve its five essential characteristics on-demand self-service, 2) broad network access, 3) resource pooling, 4) rapid elasticity, and 5) measured service. For example, server virtualization technology enables cloud providers to build pools of x86 servers that can be leveraged for resource pooling."
Trudal observed that in recent years, "[t]here has been a lot of development activity in the area of automation and orchestration technology, which allow cloud operators to implement rapid elasticity." "We are also witnessing the evolution of IT service portals to meet the requirements of self-service, as service management becomes an important factor for the successful adoption of a cloud computing."
In the next five years, Trudal predicted that there will still be plenty of room for innovation in the area of cloud computing, "but consumers will start to ask for standard offerings so the innovation will be relegated to add-ons to those offerings."