Cloud promises savings, delivers speed

IT leaders are being urged to use cloud computing to lower costs in the data center. But is speed the real payoff?

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As with early virtualization deployments, most private cloud pilots focus on relatively safe, internal IT functions, such as testing and development. Bank of New York Mellon, for example, plans to focus early cloud-automation efforts in the development and quality assurance areas. Wake Technical focused on student labs, where student homework is the only thing at risk.

At Roswell, Vaughan says his first test will be to allow the IT staff to automatically provision virtual machines for testing purposes, before moving on to the server team and application developers. "Instead of going through the paperwork of requesting that a server be built, they will be able do it themselves," he says. And as the center rolls out virtual desktop technology to its Citrix clients next year, Vaughan says the back-end servers will move into the cloud. "I'd like to push out as many services to people as we can," he adds.

That's the plan at Bank of New York Mellon as well. Fiore says the bank plans to aggressively explore hosting an internal cloud but will start in the development and testing area, where "a lot of firms are cutting their teeth." Like Fjeldheim, he says the goal is faster deployments. "Time to market is the thing our customers are demanding. Things like [the Troubled Asset Relief Program] require us to act quickly and with great agility," says Fiore.

Broader cloud deployments beyond testing and development are still at least three years off, Staten says. But a private cloud ultimately has the potential to take over large tracts of the data center, especially for Linux- and Windows-based applications with variable workload demands, such as in the areas of high-performance computing, and collaborative or Internet-based applications. Less suitable are workloads that are very stable, where the equipment is fully depreciated and where there are no requirements to upgrade in the near future.

Qualcomm is unlikely to migrate its ERP system to the cloud, because its resource needs are highly predictable. The benefit of the cloud lies in its ability to scale in an automated fashion, Clark says, "but with ERP, we know when we have to scale and we can scale it."

Nonetheless, more and more workloads are evolving in that direction. "Our portfolio of applications is gradually moving toward the commodity [servers]. As that happens, the appropriateness of cloud rises," says Pete Johnson, chief technology officer at Bank of New York Mellon. McGraw says the initial costs of setting up a private cloud at the college were high, but in the long term, "it's worth it." Vaughan is also bullish on the long-term role of a private cloud architecture. Some functions may never fit into a cloud architecture, but eventually, he says, "I think it will pretty much take over the data center."

Next: Help desks prep for consumer device blitz

This story, "Cloud promises savings, delivers speed" was originally published by Computerworld.

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