InsightaaS and TechConnex talk cloud tactics and tools

What is the current state of cloud adoption, how are IaaS, PaaS and SaaS evolving and what steps can users take to maximize the benefits of cloud technologies? These questions and more animated last Friday’s Cloud Bootcamp, presented by and hosted by TechConnex, the former York Technology Association, as 17 presenters representing the industry spectrum squared off with attendees in multiple event sessions. In a unique mix of Q&A and workshop discussions, speakers from HP, Dell, CenturyLink Technology Solutions, Microsoft, DMTI Spatial, Igloo Software, Futurestate IT, gShift Labs, Ideaca, Softchoice, Supra ITS, Cisco Canada, Hitachi Data Systems Canada and Hitachi customer ThinkOn considered what’s new in cloud and how best to get there.

To calibrate the cloud revolution, Michael O’Neil, principal analyst at InsightaaS and event moderator, introduced the daylong discussion with original research, based both on’s market tracking activity and results from a recent survey of 635 Canadian business and IT managers conducted by Techaisle. According to O’Neil, IT spending will undergo significant transformation over the next decade. As the figure below shows, while cloud accounted for a relatively small portion of IT spending ($.04 for every dollar spent on traditional IT) in 2012, 2019 will see a dramatic decline in spending for on-premise servers, storage, networking and software, and by 2020, spending on cloud and traditional IT will be roughly equivalent ($.95 on cloud for every dollar in on-premise spending).

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These findings reinforce forward momentum in cloud adoption that many analyst firms have predicted for some time now. But more importantly, they outline the size and timing of tectonic shifts in the Canadian market, highlighting the imminent dominance of hybrid IT. Distinguished from ‘hybrid cloud’, which the Techaisle survey showed is also growing (30% of small businesses /70% of medium/large businesses using or planning to use by end of 2014), albeit more slowly than private cloud or public cloud adoption, best practices in the creation of ‘hybrid IT’ environments combining on-premise and cloud resources — provided focus for the remainder of the workshop. Interestingly, in the sessions that followed on cloud planning, IaaS, SaaS, integration challenges and new capabilities enabled by cloud, business process issues and requirements served as a foundational discussion point, reflecting the critical importance of strategy and the need to align cloud with business objectives. In the planning session, for example, O’Neil’s comparison of the adoption process in cloud vs. traditional infrastructure, which cycles from strategic planning through planning and commitment stages to tracking and support of the solution, cloud presents more complex search and selection, but offers additional ability to simultaneously assess problems while supporting solutions – a level of flexibility that is new in the cloud paradigm.

If the ultimate goal of integrating business process and need and technology adoption is a “24 hour clock,” O’Neil argued that we are only ten minutes into the first hour. Cloud focus is currently on technology implementation, and strategy for the most part aimed at developing better understanding of the complexity and optimal use of different cloud technologies.  At the event — as elsewhere — cloud was divided into private/cloud/hybrid delivery, but included discussion of the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS triad. On the IaaS and PaaS fronts, Peter van der Zouwe, senior business development manager, cloud computing at Microsoft Canada, offered a thorough outline of the key cloud types, defined by management locus – who is responsible for what in the IaaS stack.  He also engaged in some myth busting — arguing that adoption barriers, such as the U.S. Patriot Act, data residency, security and availability concerns in multi-tenant environments, performance and compliance requirements have largely been addressed through better articulation of service attributes at the provider level.

Bik Dutta, director, market development,  CenturyLink Technology Solutions (Canada) In his presentation, Bik Dutta, director, market development at CenturyLink Technology Solutions Canada (formerly Savvis) outlined many of these attributes — capabilities that users looking to source IaaS should consider and capabilities that his organization looks to deliver. According to Dutta, the first priority for users should be enterprise class services, which CenturyLink Technology Solutions defines as SLAs, 24×7 cloud support, enterprise-grade gear, security expertise, compliance (SSAE16, PCI, HIPAA) and business continuity/disaster recovery. He also stressed automation — a key to cloud infrastructure which involves automation of routine tasks, monitoring, a control portal for IT user self service, sub-accounts and billing, orchestration and autoscaling of requirements. And finally, he described the flexibility that users may achieve through IaaS: hybrid consumption, for example, through CenturyLink integration across cloud, dedicated hosting and colocation services, the ability to specify data residency, Pay-As-You-Go and hourly billing, in addition to managed and other professional services.

“The user experience is critical,” Dutta explained, “but you also have to have the human touch. We come from an IT-as-a-Service or Service-as-a-Service background and this is what we look to deliver to the enterprise and smaller customers who are looking to start leveraging public cloud but have been adverse to doing so because of issues around security and customer service.” For Dutta, customer service is one of area where providers like CenturyLink differentiate themselves from the elephant in the room — Amazon Web Service — which Dutta acknowledged was able to establish a firm and early grip on the IaaS marketplace. Service also involves flexibility and functionality though, and Dutta pointed to additional capabilities that CenturyLink’s acquisition of Tier 3 will provide to customers, as well as to his organization’s commitment to customer choice in data sovereignty through ongoing local data centre build.

In an onsite interview with InsightaaS, Dutta described the range of individuals in the enterprise who may now be involved in cloud procurement and strategy, ranging from developers to IT architects to the CMO and the CFO. Counsel on working with these groups is outlined below in the best practice guidance offered below, which was compiled from advice provided by Dutta and van der Zouwe.

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A good deal of this advice addresses the business side of the cloud equation — a key goal of the Cloud Bootcamp. Thoughout the day, similar best practice lists were presented for cloud business planning, for SaaS adoption, for cloud integration and for “extensions” — net-new capabilities that cloud users may find in technologies such as mobility and Big Data that more than cost justify the cloud platform implementation. But the lists served as more than a compendium of good advice: session attendees were asked to consider and apply these practices in four different theoretical companies, report on their rationales and discuss their approaches with expert industry panelists — in other words, to consider the case for implementation from a holistic perspective that takes into account the business need and potential benefit from cloud. It was clear from session interaction and attendee feedback that the ultimate Bootcamp goal was met — that integration of the technology and business dialogue creates a thought provoking approach to helping Canadian businesses find the best way to deploy and win in cloud.

For a video view of the InsightaaS analysis of Canadian cloud adoption, see below.





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