Scalability a top priority for cloud adoption
Subscribe now for $100 (23 issues) and save more than 37% off the cover price!
Get the latest news from Computerworld delivered via email.
Sign up now
Concerns around cloud computing seem to be diminishing, as scalability becomes the top priority for many users spoken to by Computerworld for this special feature on cloud computing.
Software-as-a-service startup Unleashed Software was set on global expansion from the get-go. Founded in Auckland in 2009 by Greg Murphy, the company now has users in around 50 countries, according to CEO Gareth Berry.
Unleashed Software offers online inventory tools, primarily for business-to-business traders, says Berry. The system integrates with several other online business components, such as Xero’s accounting system and the Magento e-commerce platform, he says.
In addition to the Auckland office, which is based at Massey University, Murphy is currently heading up an office in Silicon Valley and Berry is in the process of setting up a Melbourne office.
“We are nine staff now and looking for another three this week,” he says.
The company first went looking for a hosting provider at the end of 2009.
“We decided to go for a local cloud solution to begin with, primarily because we were a young company,” Berry says.
Back then, SaaS was still very new and there was a perception of a lot of risk surrounding it.
“We thought we could manage our risks better if we had a local provider rather than international.”
The company decided to go with local datacentre provider Maxnet for a couple of reasons – the specialised engineers; the scalability offered and the fact that Maxnet was already hosting enterprise customers in its datacentre, Berry says. He adds there is a lot of trust in the relationship.
“In the two and a half years we have been [with Maxnet] we’ve had no more than 20 minutes of downtime,” he says.
“If Maxnet goes down, I’ll have a thousand phone calls instantly. The businesses that are using Unleashed cannot afford to have the software down for any length of time at all. It’s mission-critical that our software is always online.”
But scalability is the number one benefit, he says.
“Obviously when we started, we didn’t have a big budget. We were asking Maxnet for enterprise tools for a small cost, and they came to the party. As we’ve grown, so has the solution, and we pay a lot more now than when we first started,” he adds with a smile.
The next step for Unleashed Software is to offer more data services to overseas customers – from overseas datacentres.
“We need to provide a better and more local service to our European and North American customers,” Berry says.
If you are looking to build a growing, global business, having your own servers, or even a co-location solution, won’t cut it, “because it’s not scalable enough”, he says.
“We are not hardware experts, we are software experts. We need to bear in mind to stick to what we are good at.”
Also consider your platform options, he says. Amazon, for example, is highly available, but expanding on it could end up more expensive than envisaged.
Survey: Cloud innovation
According to a recent IBM survey, local IT managers see cloud computing as an enabler of innovation within IT departments. Horizon Research conducted the survey of 119 IT managers from organisations of varying size across the country.
Nearly three quarters of respondents believed that cloud adoption would change the role of in-house IT professionals, in that it would provide more scope for IT departments to lead innovation in their organisations, says Andrew Fox, head of IBM’s services business. This surprised him, but in a positive way, he says.
“When we first started talking about cloud years ago, of course the IT departments were terrified their jobs were going to be taken away,” Fox says. “We had to deal with that every time we talked to [organisations about cloud]. It’s great to see that our prospective clients now understand it just means they will be able to spend their time somewhere else.”
The survey also showed that cloud is likely to change which skills are required in-house. Two thirds of respondents believed that there would be “more strategic relationships with IT providers in a cloud-based environment” and that this would result in a need for non-IT-related skills, such as business skills, in-house. Three quarters of respondents also believed that there would be less reliance on traditional IT skills when adopting a cloud environment.
There was “an acknowledgement that different skills will be required in different areas of expertise”, Fox says. Skills in demand were expected to be mostly related to architecture – in particular applications, storage and enterprise architects, he says.
The research also uncovered some concerns. Some respondents were worried about being a small fish in a big pond, asking questions like, “how will they take notice of us when we have just five virtual machines on a farm that hosts thousands?”, he says.
Some organisations were still worried about security and data sovereignty aspects. Another concern that cropped up was how cloud would work with the bandwidth issues we have in New Zealand.
There is a “cynical” group but it seems to getting smaller, Fox says.
Another interesting outcome of the research was to see what the market now believes are the main benefits of cloud computing for IT, he says.
“If we had asked 12-18 months ago, most CIOs would have said it’s all about cost-takeout, and while that is still featured, we are now seeing some more ‘grown up’ statements, like ‘I’m excited about the increased flexibility of the infrastructure’ and ‘the reduced time to develop and deploy new business requirements’.”
Respondents were also positive to increased user access to IT systems, with staff being able to access systems from home, or from a browser anywhere.
“There were a few comments around BYOD and how cloud supports that more readily than traditional IT,” he says.
While IBM has conducted cloud research globally, this is the first time the organisation has undertaken a local survey of this kind, says Fox. The research showed that New Zealand is very much in line with the rest of the world when it comes to cloud. “We are not out of the ordinary. We are worried about the same kinds of things and taking the same approach as the rest of the world.”
Proactive Accountants Network
Brisbane-based Proactive Accountants Network migrated to a Google cloud solution in September last year. The membership-based company provides tools, coaching, content and technology to over 350 accounting firms in 38 countries.