Cloud Computing Perspectives 2: The IT Department

Welcome to the next part of our “Cloud Perspectives” series. Last time, we looked at the challenges that IT poses for business owners, and how cloud computing can help to simplify and resolve them. This time, we’re getting close and personal with the people that deal directly with IT every day — the teams responsible for procuring, managing and planning IT resources.

The Challenge for the IT Department

This is an interesting (indeed, read “challenging”) time for IT teams. They’re caught in the middle in a sort of paradox: under pressure from business owners to deliver more, but to do so at a more competitive price. At the same time, they’re facing increasing demand from their users and customers, both in terms of improving the quality of service they provide, and managing an ever expanding infrastructure.

It’s a big challenge, so we’ll break it down into five sections:

1. IT teams are under pressure to cut costs

2. They need to work more efficiently

3. They need the ability to cope with unpredictable demand

4. They’re facing a demand to improve quality of service to users

5. They’re being asked to work quickly to reduce time-to-market

If you’re faced with these challenges, maybe you’ll empathise with what our IT team leader has to say here:

The challenge for the IT department: How can my team reduce capital and operational expenditure, while meeting our infrastructure management obligations, let alone invest resources in developing strategy and innovation?

The Solution

IT teams evidently have a lot on their plate at the moment! So how can adopting a cloud strategy help to tackle the issues we’ve outlined, and make their lives easier?

1. How does cloud help IT teams to meet capital cost cutting targets?
  • Along with improved efficiency (which we’ll look at next), cost cutting is often championed as one of the key benefits of moving to a cloud based infrastructure — indeed, the two are closely linked.
  • With an outsourced, virtual data centre, one of the most apparent opportunities for cost savings is the reduced need for capital expenditure. Instead of purchasing the “cookie-cutter” hardware you need to cover a requirement, the on-demand approach of cloud means that IT spend can be more closely aligned with end-user demands. Cloud gives you access to the resources you need, when you need them, for as long as you need them, where you only pay for what you actually need — and you’re not left with unused IT stock (capital wastage).
2. How does cloud improve efficiency?
  • “Keeping the lights on” — that’s attending to the installation, everyday maintenance and replacement of physical hardware and infrastructure — soaks up a lot of time that could be spent doing much more valuable, strategic work (such as the challenges of improving service quality and reducing time-to-market). Cloud gives a lot of this time back, because with a virtual data centre, all that tin (and all that work) is somebody else’s responsibility.
  • What’s more, everything within a cloud can be managed centrally from a web-based portal (we use VMware vCloud Director in our Cloud Utilities service). Deploy new systems at the touch of a button, set automated security policies and reassign resources where they’re needed most.

3. The elastic cloud accommodates changeable demand
  • As illustrated in our earlier “Cloud Scenarios” article, a virtual infrastructure takes the guess work out of provisioning the resources that are needed to cope with demand. Cloud gives you the flexibility to respond to a wide variety of changeable demand profiles: from predictable scenarios such as steady growth and seasonal variation, to more volatile situations like surges, and simply dealing with the “unknown” when a project is launched. Quickly scale up when you need the extra power, scale back down again if and when demand falls off.
  • And in what is emerging as a common theme, this benefit contributes to meeting our next challenge — improving service quality…

4. Improving service quality to users and customers
  • With cloud, the idea that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” rings especially true: no single server is relied upon, cutting the risk of downtime, and ensuring that software and applications are available when they’re required.
  • Deployed from a purpose-built data centre, cloud benefits from commercially resilient networks, redundant power and strict levels of security — again, improving the reliability of service.
  • Go global to deliver locally: resources and applications can be deployed into the locale that suits their users best, to deliver the best response times and support, and enhance the customer experience.
5. Reducing time-to-market
  • Expanding on the efficiencies that we’ve already identified, the self-service model of cloud (which can be likened to an “IT vending machine”) helps teams to shrink project delivery times by weeks, if not months. Traditionally, when an IT resource is identified, the process involves a lengthy process of decision making, ordering, building, delivering, installing and testing, before eventually, that resource is made available. With on-demand cloud, it can be as simple as logging in to a web interface and spinning up resources with the click of a few buttons.
  • This idea that teams can get the resources they need, when they need them, is vitally important: IT departments are under pressure to deliver quickly in order to meet the overall goal of delivering the business agility needed to react to new and changing market demands. The IT vending machine helps them towards this objective.

In the final part of our series, we’ll see how all of this impacts on the end-user (whether that’s an internal business user or a paying customer). As we did last time, we’ll give the final word to our IT team leader:

The view from the IT department: Cloud has changed the way that we work for the better. Now we're spending less time and money on 'keeping the lights on' and focussing instead on bringing value to our organisation and improving service for our customers.

Questions about cloud computing?

You’re welcome to contact us, or you might like to take a look at the “Cloud Answers” section of our website.

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