How businesses can maximise the potential of cloud computing

Virtual Data Centres are the future of cloud delivery

Matthew Finnie

Matthew Finnie is CTO of Interoute, and a regular advisor to the European Commission on ICT research and innovation, and a member of the CONNECT Advisory Forum (CAF) advising the EU commission on investment priorities as part of the digital futures and horizon 2020 initiatives. We spoke to him on the topic of how businesses can maximise their gains when it comes to the cloud.

TechRadar Pro: Our culture of immediacy means that everyone expects everything instantaneously, especially in the enterprise. How can the IT department deliver on these demands and what technologies will take IT managers to IT leaders?

Matthew Finnie: What is required in this particular debate is balance. The users are used to on-demand everything and generally don't worry about the potential security concerns of back-end integration. But the IT department no longer has an excuse to hide behind the 'folded arms, security says no' response.

Times have changed. The arrival of cloud computing allows IT departments to build platforms like the ones used to create the apps their users crave, and the evolution of second-generation Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms allow for securing them for corporate use and migration without recoding. Service oriented architecture becomes far simpler to execute if the infrastructure is set up to deal with the mobility, migration and scale challenges that many IT departments face. With greater flexibility, IT can create incredible services at scale and still securely deliver them to employees for a fraction of the price.

TRP: Research shows that around 50% of professionals work remotely for at least half the week, and as the office place of the future becomes a reality, what technologies will be essential to enable this shift?

MF: There are now a vast range of technologies that enable greater collaboration and simple, fast information sharing. Video, voice and messaging technologies, for example Microsoft Lync, are typically best bought as a service as they have built-in flexibility and adaptability.

In order to take full advantage of these collaboration tools, we need to move on from the traditional IT model of 'locked down' builds using closed infrastructure, towards an approach that effectively turns the IT department into a service provider. For example, instead of purchasing physical data centres, simply store and transport data virtually, using cloud infrastructure.

In an environment where the IT department is a service provider, the network will become increasingly important to ensure continued support for each person across the organisation.

This is again a balancing act, between the importance of getting acquainted with networking technologies like MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), which offers the flexibility of the internet, and harnessing the security of traditional Ethernet services. This enables enterprises to outsource hosting of core applications like Microsoft Lync and Exchange to a single platform, as well as facilitating a world of faster application development without the traditional architecture constraints.

TRP: Interoute has so far invested in 10 Virtual Data Centres (VDC), including adding new sites in the USA, Asia and UK this year. What are the main driving factors for this growth?

MF: The expansion has been primarily driven by customer demand. Enterprises are looking for a low latency, data sovereignty compliant platform that is exceptionally resilient and provides a fully automated backup and disaster recovery option. But the expansion is also driven by our overriding strategy to build a secure, low latency, high throughput cloud computing platform.

VDC makes applications like banking, enterprise infrastructure and high availability data processing possible, whilst lowering the latency and increasing efficiency of resources of the traditional cloud environments like online presence. All that enables customers to lower costs and that's before you take into account the fact that we don't charge for network!

TRP: Gartner has predicted that Western Europe, the second largest market for cloud services, will account for 24% of spend between 2013 and 2016. How can cloud service providers capitalise on this opportunity?

MF: Providers need to understand that Europe is not a market that can be served from one or two locations simply because it's convenient for the provider. Data control and location are important to many customers, and with the cloud market and European enterprises, there's a level of local coverage required to deal with data sovereignty issues, latency and market concentration.

TRP: How does a customer like the European Space Agency (ESA) use Interoute's services?

MF: The ESA uses Interoute's global Virtual Data Centre infrastructure to enable the scientific community to analyse and interpret large volumes of satellite data. This in turn means they can better understand the processes causing geohazards such as earthquakes and volcanic activity. The ESA's earth observation satellite data processing application uses a combination of Interoute Virtual Data Centre and Interoute's MPLS network for the collection and processing of a huge amount of data.

The combination of networking, computing and storage forms a flexible and scalable infrastructure for a host of applications and internal IT needs. In simple terms, ESA uses Interoute's ground to the cloud, computing and network platform to track and monitor our planet.

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