According to James Delaney, service delivery manager for PFH Technology Group, it’s not possible to say one type of company or sector is more likely to adopt IAAS and PAAS – it depends on the company as all are individual.
“At the moment, we’re seeing a lot of take up across the board from small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to larger organisations. We’re seeing that with IAAS and PAAS, there’re no up-front costs or capital expenditure, no maintenance costs, no power and cooling costs,” he said. Typically, when a company decides it needs more servers, it’s because they need them straight away, and the fastest way to get them is to provision them in the cloud. “We had a customer recently which urgently needed two large servers for a business intelligence project. Normally if they were to buy on-site servers it could take a couple of weeks to get them in, installed and configured,” said Delaney. “But from the time of the order we were able to have those servers presented to the customer within four hours, complete with servers deployed, operating systems loaded, ready to go and handed over.”
PFH Technology is a Microsoft reseller, specialising in Microsoft Azure cloud platform products. “That represents huge savings in terms of time and effort and it’s a predictable monthly cost that can be scaled up and down as is needed. On the back of that kind of flexibility, we’re seeing a lot of interest.”
Driving this demand is a growing level of awareness of what can be
done in the cloud, of the benefits of working in this way and of the relatively low barriers to entry in terms of cost. In addition, there are many companies that didn’t spend on infrastructure refreshes during the recession and which are now actively shopping to upgrade their IT estate.“In particular, a lot of small to medium sized businesses have sweated their assets rather than spend over the last few years. Now they’re looking to spend again and they’re interested in the opportunities that the cloud presents,” said Delaney. “They’re realising that they don’t necessarily need in-house IT people, they can push their infrastructure into the cloud and get a company like PFH to manage it. We’ll monitor it, patch it, look after making backups
we’ll do everything for them in the cloud because we offer a total managed service.”
A persistent concern for many companies worried about putting IT systems they potentially depend upon into the cloud and as a result outside their immediate control is security and regulatory compliance. If they keep their data in their own data centre, then there is little risk of them losing access to it. Can this be said of cloud-hosted infrastructure and data?
“They’re partly correct. In one sense once you sign on the dotted line and move your data online, it’s going to benefit from security that is probably far more robust than anything you could manage. But that’s not the end of the story. People sometimes think that if they go to the cloud that everything will be done for them and they can just forget about it, that once it’s in the cloud, it’s safe and secure,” said Delaney.
“But you still need to make sure your servers are patched and kept up to date. They still need to be backed up and managed, and that’s a service we offer but not every provider does so it’s important to check.”
Geopolitics can be another concern – different parts of the world have different laws on data privacy and data mobility and for some companies this is important.
“We find that a lot of people want to know where their data is located because they want to make sure that it stays in Europe and isn’t replicated across the world. But it’s also true in many cases such companies are one of the many that have moved to Microsoft’s Office 365, so they have embraced the cloud without really realising it,” said Delaney. “The next step is to put their servers in the cloud and eliminate the headaches of on-site management as well, so sometimes hesitation and concern can be a perceptual thing and it isn’t actually as big a deal as they might think.”
A palatable first step for companies in the situation of wanting to benefit from the advantages of the cloud without sacrificing too much autonomy is to move towards hybrid IAAS and PAAS, with some of their infrastructure accessed remotely in the cloud and some on-site.
“We’re seeing this a lot and for most people the reality is that a hybrid solution works best, with some tech on site and some going onto the cloud. There’re very few organisations that have embraced pushing everything into the cloud but we can see some smaller to medium sized businesses that are going to go that way,” he said. “For now though there are many larger organisations that have legacy applications that are not suitable to move to the cloud so they will keep some of their systems locally. However, inevitably at some point they’ll want to move those applications to the cloud. For example, who’d want to keep Exchange on site anymore?”
The action plan, according to Delaney, for any company thinking of making the move is to start with the aspects of your infrastructure that aren’t mission critical.
“Move your mail into the cloud, put your back-ups there and then look at your other servers and see which can be moved off site, especially if you’re on old hardware and you haven’t upgraded for a few years. For example, we still see some companies running Windows 2003 on servers and now they’re coming back looking to upgrade. Instead of installing new hardware, we’re looking at moving them to the cloud.”
“It’s the perfect time, and we can show them the monthly costs, with the whole thing priced on a consumption model.”