Despite barriers and uncertainty, cloud computing is set to bring fundamental innovation in the way organizations are using IT, according to a panel of practitioners recently assembled in Dublin.
While there are still concerns about security, data protection, national jurisdiction, SLAs and other issues, companies as strictly regulated as banks are still looking to nebulize. The international panel of four cloud practitioners to spoke of their experiences in a talk at the Westbury Hotel, just off Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland.
In a light-hearted but informative talk, Tim Willoughby (@timwillo) of the Irish Local Government Computer Services Board (LGCSB) told of how his organization used the cloud to break down some Irish local-government planning silos. A resident of Naas, Co. Kildare, Willoughby joked that “Naas used to be a town but is now called Network as a Service (NaaS).”
Citing Jane Fountain, who said there was a risk of “replicating silos on the internet,” the LGCSB set about building links between web-based islands of information. Willoughby noted that planning data is put up by each municipality in Ireland for its geographical area. The computer board built a site to link all the country’s planning applications together using information from each local authority. This was done quickly on the cloud, Willoughby said.
The advantages of cloud computing include scalability and low up-front costs, he said. The disadvantages include concerns about data, security and privacy. At the moment, Willoughby said cloud vendors are offering Model T Service Level Agreements (SLAs): You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.
Willoughby said the LGCSB started slowly by dealing with information that was already public. Referring to data that may be more private, he said, “If it’s complex inside the firewall, it is going to be even more complex in the cloud.”
Torstein Harildstad, CEO of Norwegan firm, Software Innvoation, outlined how his firm also dealt with public information. Selling to Norwegian municipalities under that country’s famously open information laws, he said buyers don’t care about technology. They want to make information available and comply with the law.
His company’s cloud-based applications allow it to manage patches and software updates centrally. “There is a [short] time to deploy: You sign a deal and you are up and running in the next few days,” Harildstad said. Again, his company was also unconcerned about data laws since the information they are dealing with is already public.
However, there is no such luxury for banks, said Hassan Nasiri, Enterprise Architect with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Yet that company is actively investigating cloud computing and its concepts to find cost savings, he said. Their conundrum is: “How do we get all the benefits from the cloud but rewrite the rules for our own use?”
Nasiri acknowledged they will face a challenge. Banks are highly regulated and there is a high level of sensitivity around the safety of customer data. There are also internal considerations around backups, archiving and classification of data.
Finally, Conor O’Riordan of Tradefaciliate.com recounted how his company provides a service for small and medium enterprises to cut paperwork in international trade. Although they have managed to cut costs for small businesses and increase accuracy for national customs agencies, their customers “never talk tech,” he said. Yet there has been a “paradigm shift” because small companies take advantage of complex technology without needing the expertise to run it.
The talk was organized by the Irish Internet Association (IIA @iia), the Irish Software Association, the Irish Computer Society (ICS @IrishCompSoc), Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC @ibec_econ), the Irish Software Innovation Network (@IrishSoftNet) and EuroCloud Ireland (@eurocloudirl).
Picture of clouds courtesy of Paolo Donadeo on Flickr.