Oncore IT opens new UK Information Office for press & analysts to provide commentary about achieving best practice in the Cloud

London, UK – Feb. 22, 2012 — / — The market is buzzing with interest and activity around the Cloud. But the bottom line is that many decision makers – particularly those in small to medium sized businesses – face real confusion trying to select a partner and working out the best way forward with the Cloud given the grandiose claims by some suppliers about what it can actually deliver in terms of reducing CAPEX, streamlining OPEX and so on.

That’s why at Oncore IT we’re opening an Information Office for press and analysts interested in the whole area of Cloud computing.

Technical and commercial experts are available to brief you about the practical realities of scoping, delivering and using Cloud services, with Oncore IT’s customers able to share with you their experiences of actually doing so.

Given the F.U.D [fear, uncertainty and doubt] surrounding the Cloud, this post outlines Oncore IT’s advice for companies about what to look for in a Cloud pitch to ensure IT and ultimately commercial success.

What should a Cloud partner’s DNA actually look like?
A potential Cloud partner must be able to deliver a secure and reliable environment to support a customer’s IT requirements in a simple, scalable and cost-effective manner.

‘Must have’ things to look for are as follows:

  • State-of-the art technology from best-of-breed vendors to deliver the highest levels of performance and availability;
  • 24 x 7 access to the proposed new environment, from any location and from many devices and platforms;
  • 24 x 7 support to ensure help is available when needed;
  • A comprehensive, fault-tolerant network infrastructure.

But as the Cloud becomes the latest ‘Gold Rush,’ too many contenders offer the opposite – inflexible ‘standard’ solutions that fail to deliver to the expectation of the client.

To Cloud or not to Cloud. Is that really the question?
There’s a classic statement that for a man whose only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail to hit. By that logic, if you contract with a Cloud-only supplier, there is a clear risk: its specialists will want to put everything in their Cloud – even when that might not be to the best advantage for the customer.

Of course, there are really very few technology items that are completely resistant to being delivered in a Cloud fashion. The issue is if that would be done at too high a cost. For instance, if an organisation has limited access to adequate bandwidth, it is unlikely it will be able to provision enough functionality this way.

At the same time, if a customer has useful bespoke software applications that really can only reside on a ‘fat client’ it is going to be more pragmatic to keep them where they are. The converse is just as true: if the customer wants to run a thin client environment in the Cloud but with a small user base for that application, the licensing impact may be heavy if the ISV then requires payment for the whole organisation.

The recommendation is that any use of the Cloud therefore has to meet a customer’s current (and desired longer-term) ICT landscape and requirements. The emphasis must be on total solution design, not ‘Cloud for Cloud’s sake’.

For those people who think a move to Cloud will eliminate the need for, say, any internal infrastructure at all, or minimal to zero hardware investment, it sometimes comes as a mild shock to hear otherwise. The rubric here is that ROI could be financial, production environment improvement or operational – never just financial.

Based on in-depth consultation and preliminary analysis – and only based on it – will a supplier worth the money proffer a template for a suggested new topology that may or may not include elements of, say, public, private or hybrid types of Cloud.

Perhaps it would be best to get back to basics. If it isn’t a guaranteed cost-saver or magic answer, why would I want to do Cloud again?

  1. Cloud means that at the back end, a reputable and competent Cloud supplier will be supplying proven, reliable and market leading components that in effect allow the mid sized player to ‘punch above their weight’ and compete on completely equal terms with bigger competition.
  2. Cloud offers a more modern, complete ICT stack, So, look for high availability, increased flexibility, added functionality, more scalable systems and in the best cases, default business continuity by use of multiple sites that radically lower the risk of operational disruption.

Establishing best practice in terms of using the Cloud as a delivery platform
As not all Cloud ‘providers’ are equally competent at the back end, only work with a Cloud partner that is able to convincingly demonstrate that it has both capacity and competence to adapt its Cloud offering to fit its customers’ needs.

This statement can in turn be decomposed as follows:

Infrastructure capability to ensure security
For most organisations, security is a non-negotiable. The concept ‘security’ here encompasses the ability to defend the company perimeter from external threat, offer resources to aid internal auditing, and preserve the company’s business processes in the event of disruption. The prospective Cloud partner must therefore be able to offer proof of resource in all these areas.

Competence and capacity to guarantee availability
It’s simply unacceptable for a technology provider to shoehorn client requirements into a shape convenient for itself. True solution design has to come from a process of client engagement which outputs a customised structure which is reviewed and adapted over time.

Such an approach will be for naught but good intentions unless backed up by industrial-strength compute potential. In the Cloud context, this means the rented infrastructure or platform should be housed in a high performance facility.

It should not be necessary to add, but alas it probably is: none of this will be worth paying for unless it is well supported by a broad, experienced set of engineers at the partner end able to offer true round-the-clock and preferably local support.

Connectivity is king
The Cloud partner must give access to a wide range of top-tier communications providers, and the very highest level of bandwidth possible. This will mean the minimum of connections to the ‘Net, low latency, and the best price-performance ratio.

It may also be highly desirable to obtain geographical dispersal. This is advantageous as it can mean much more robust security and longevity for your data. The best solution: datacentres in different countries – not just in-house duplication.

Service Level Agreements set expectations for the right Cloud relationship
The final piece of the puzzle is to build a way for both customer and partner to get what they want from the relationship. This is where an appropriately constructed memorandum of terms – a service level agreement (SLA) – is put in place as the foundation for the duration of the partnership. Key to the value proposition of the entire transaction has to be a clear means for measuring performance against agreed targets, sanctions and responses for issue management and a set of not just lowest common denominator deliverables but how the provider can excel.

Cloud can offer a sunny future
CIOs and line of business owners alike need to offer their organisations highly available systems that address current or anticipated budgetary constraints, yet are flexible, able to cope with rising data volumes, offer worker flexibility, meet a growing range of compliance legislation and ideally, cost less this year than they did last year.

An impossible set of conditions? The truly exciting thing about using Cloud where appropriate with the right kind of flexible, competent and honest provider is that it seems the most convincing option the CIO has ever had here in ‘squaring the circle.’ But it stands or falls on what a Cloud partner can bring to the party and their ability to deliver.

Media Contact
Paul Cook
Phone: 08451 489 248

Source: Oncore IT

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