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Cloud shift now ‘past the tipping point’, say CIOs, but IT infrastructure could still present a barrier

Organisations are now “past the tipping point” for cloud computing, but some large, well-established organisations still might struggle to shift to the cloud with their current IT and networking infrastructures.

That was one of the messages from one CIO talking – under Chatham House rules – at one of Computing’s recent IT Leaders’ Dining Clubs, sponsored by IBM.

“My company is trying to re-invent itself right now [and] cloud’s a great opportunity,” said one CIO of a major utility. “I think we’re past the tipping point for cloud. It’s cost-effective [at a time when] demands on IT teams and CIOs are huge.”

His organisation, he added, is in the midst of “transformations across three companies”, integrating their systems, with projects including new billing systems and a mobile workforce allocation roll-out in a remote location where mobile signals are poor, at best.

But, a recent attempt to shift to a group-wide cloud telephony platform was stalled at a very basic, technical level. “We’re trying to do a group-wide telephony platform and we don’t have the right WAN [wide-area network] to be able to go into the cloud. So I’m still trying to buy managed services at the very basic level,” he said.

Nevertheless, he added, “the only reason we do on-premise now is for security. So we’re running out of reasons to stay on-premise” and even in terms of security, organisations are running out of ‘excuses’ there, too, he added.

The CIO of a building and engineering consultancy agreed, but added: “We’re cloud-first, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to do it in every area.

“So, some of the people who are resistant to cloud are resistant for obvious reasons. We do a fair amount of work in the nuclear power industry, and no-one there is going to put their stuff in the cloud.

“The other sector that we are particularly active in where cloud really isn’t especially attractive currently is in critical infrastructure, where the possibility of the link through the cloud, the network connectivity, is considered vulnerable. Therefore, for the local compute of operational technology everyone feels a lot more comfortable if it doesn’t rely on long chains of connectivity.”

Nevertheless, across many industry sectors, the scalability benefits of the cloud combined with the pre-integration of the various elements is making cloud increasingly attractive, he added.

“If we’re doing an IoT [Internet of Things] project, rather than having to integrate all your own software yourself and take all of the risk, the skills you need and so on, the pre-integrated stacks that do the analytics and visualisation that you want, that’s really attractive.

You can get better insight into operations, you can get economies of scale, you can save all the data about performance of the bridge or the tunnel or the building over a long period in very fine detail that you would otherwise have thrown away.”

Because of the sheer volume of data generated in his particularly industry, highly detailed technical data may only be kept for a short period of time for reporting before it is over-written, he said.

That makes it more difficult to evaluate how an item might have deteriorated over three or five years. “More and more of our customers are recognising that this enormous data capacity, and the ability to process it and make some sense of it, is really attractive.

“There’s a few no-go areas, and that’s not going to change. Otherwise, we’re very actively moving all of our processes and tools to cloud of various flavours, although it may not necessarily be the public cloud.” 

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