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Interview: Making cloud a reality

Computerworld Singapore staff | Oct. 5, 2011
Next-generation cloud, public versus hybrid cloud and what strategies suit your organisation best--Chin Ying Loong, vice president, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle ASEAN, offers his views on these topics of concern.

The need for enterprise IT organisations to provide next-generation cloud features such as elastic capacity while meeting ever more demanding performance and reliability requirements is driving demand for a new approach to infrastructure, says Chin Ying Loong, vice president, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle ASEAN, in this exclusive email interview.

We have all heard the buzz and arguments for cloud computing, but it is only now that it is moving from boardroom conversations to reality. Why do you think this is the case?

The need for enterprise IT organisations to provide next-generation cloud features such as elastic capacity while meeting ever more demanding performance and reliability requirements is driving demand for a new approach to infrastructure. Whether workloads are Web-based or thick-client, whether data-intensive or processing-intensive, whether homogeneous or highly heterogeneous, the key to success is hardware and software engineered together for performance, reliability, and scale. Building or using custom, special-purpose systems for different applications is wasteful and expensive.

How can organisations overcome data centre silos to achieve the promised agility and benefits of cloud computing?

Data centres have traditionally been built around individual applications; with each application relying on its own, allocated stack of technologies. These dedicated silos, where each application runs on its own middleware, database, servers and storage, are sized for peak load. Therefore there is a significant amount of excess capacity built in. Each silo is also different, leading to complexity and high costs. In reality, IT’s efforts are mostly spent ensuring that such proprietary stacks are up and running, leaving only a small amount of resources for creating value for innovation.

By making IT into an engine that accelerates business change, organisations will be able to rapidly and effectively roll out business strategies such as mergers and acquisitions, or new products which will allow organisations to attain market leadership.

Organisations need to move from these silos to a grid or virtual environment with shared services, dynamic provisioning and standardised configurations or appliances. Most companies I talk to are engaged in some form of consolidation, though they may be doing this in only a portion of their data centre. 

What is Oracle’s point of view around public vs hybrid cloud? What strategy suits what types of organisations best, and what is the most likely path companies will take?

We believe that many organisations will evolve to a self-service private cloud offering the same flexibility and incremental cost advantages to end-users as public clouds, but with less perceived risk and greater assurances of security and accountability. This idea is gaining increasing acceptance among large organisations. According to a survey conducted by a leading analysts firm, over 40 percent of about 1,000 organisations surveyed reported plans to implement some type of private cloud in the next few years. Similarly, a recent survey conducted among IT and data managers / professionals with the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) found that private cloud formations are growing in many companies, often outpacing adoption of the public cloud.

In the meantime, we believe public clouds will continue to mature and eventually create a potent mix of private and public clouds, a “hybrid cloud”, which will run a single application, managed in a federated manner, “through a single pane of glass.” 

For example, in a cloud-bursting scenario, an organisation might run the steady-state workload on the in-house private cloud, on hardware and data centres owned by the organisation. But when there is a peak in the workload (such as at the end of the financial quarter or ahead of the holiday season), it can dynamically burst out to a public cloud and take advantage of that capacity. When the peak is over, capacity can be returned back to the pool and the cost shed. We think cloud bursting is still some way off in the future, but it certainly is very compelling. Organisations which have adopted SOA in their data centres will be in a better position to take advantage of cloud bursting.

In terms of speed, different organisations will evolve through these basic stages at different rates. Organisations will usually leave some stable legacy applications in a siloed mode and consolidate other applications to a virtualised, grid environment. For some types of applications, they will move to a full self-service private cloud and ultimately to a hybrid cloud model. All of this will take time and Oracle is committed to working with our customers to realise the full potential of cloud computing on their business.

Can you share some examples of Oracle customers that have successfully embarked on their journey to the cloud, and how to overcome common pitfalls?

Oracle is a cloud computing leader with a comprehensive set of cloud computing solutions and many of our customers are already realising these benefits.  The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), for example, adopted Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) to consolidate and share its 300 databases in a private cloud environment for its businesses in Australia.

In addition to attaining higher security levels by consolidating onto a shared environment, CBA also realised cost savings such as reduced hardware costs for expensive servers, lowered operations system software and maintenance charges with 300 databases combined on a single OS; and lowered cost for managing the operations on a standard operating environment.

As customers look to trim down IT costs by hosting shared services, consolidating workloads on fewer physical resources and lowering IT administration costs, evolving from a grid to a cloud platform will become more prevalent.

Here are some suggestions for organisations embarking on the cloud journey:

•    Integrated application-to-disk engineered systems speed up the ability to exploit cloud computing and reduce business and technology risks.
•    Virtualisation is a key enabler of cloud computing but managing clouds is another crucial element. Managing all virtual machines and clusters is quite complex, especially with self-service, multi-tenancy, metering for billing/chargeback, and other requirements of cloud computing. To reap the full benefits of cloud computing, organisations need to choose the right management solution.
•    It is vital for organisations embracing the cloud to take an approach where security pervades the entire architecture rather than being bolted on as an afterthought. Organisations should not only look at products with best-of-breed security in their respective categories, but also the one where security mechanisms are well integrated, enabling ease of deployment, ease of change, and high reliability.
•    In order to reap maximum business benefits from this hybrid cloud approach, customers must adapt middleware technologies that will seamlessly bridge this divide and help them continue on their path of business agility and transformation.


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