While the worldwide market seems to be embracing cloud computing and its ability to lower the running costs of information technology, the local move towards off-site infrastructure that’s rented as a utility is still in its infancy.
That’s the opinion of Terence Barter, Dell enterprise business unit manager at Tarsus Technologies, who believes this stems from the fact that South Africa has a long way to go before its underlying infrastructure can measure up to that of the developed world.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “The situation is vastly improved from only a few years ago when fibre-optic backbones, robust connectivity and world-class data centres were both too expensive and too complex to implement on the continent.
“The economies of scale, where the cloud computing paradigm makes sense universally, haven’t been reached yet.”
While this does to some extent mean business as usual for CIOs, IT directors and the resellers that service them, it most certainly doesn't mean they should rest on their laurels and wait for cloud computing to hit the country before they begin thinking about and planning for the shift.
“There are a number of things these companies could be doing in preparation for the move towards utility-style computing infrastructure, for example, investigating virtualised server infrastructure in their data centres,” he says.
From a virtualised server infrastructure perspective, Barter says companies can begin creating an environment where available resources can be scaled up and down as and when the business cyclically requires it, and more importantly, where that virtual resource can be moved around from one piece of physical infrastructure to another in a heartbeat.
“This,” he says, “paves the way to easily migrate that virtual infrastructure partially and then fully off-site, when the time is right.”
Another example, according to Barter, is looking at how existing storage infrastructure will serve a business' needs when cloud computing arrives.
Barter says virtualised storage pools can be implemented in a similar way.
“One small tweak is that companies can additionally implement caching services in the form of speedy, on-premise disk arrays, which ensure the most commonly used data is stored close to the points it will be accessed from.
“That way,” he says, “when the time comes to migrate into the cloud, performance will not be impacted in any way, despite the main storage system being off-site in any number of data centres.”
Barter believes that although cloud computing is some way off, it is critical to carry out these pre-emptive steps in the near term if one considers that analysts are predicting the industry shift will come like a tsunami wave.
“As with most things in life, it’s always better to be prepared,” he says.
“And if those preparatory steps benefit the company today and in the future, it’s a double-win,” he concludes.