Pat Pilcher talks to Aaron Olphert, Chief Technology Officer at Kordia New Zealand about cloud networking.
Pat Pilcher: What actually is the cloud?
Aaron Olphert: From my perspective it is a service delivered from a remote location that enables businesses to have greater scalability and most important, availability of that service than they could economically justify in-house. There are many more restrictive definitions of Cloud solutions used in the industry which focus on the ability for customers to sign up online, provision themselves and pay as they go. However, remembering we are a nation of SMEs, the vast majority of New Zealand businesses, have use for this level of flexibility.
You mention that networking and the cloud create an oxymoron? How does that work?
Unfortunately most people - even some IT specialists - make the incorrect assumption that as long as you have an Internet connection you're in business.
You can access Cloud solutions and get the same performance for a cheaper price. How many IT teams would have traditionally hosted their servers in a cross town datacentre and connect to them via the Internet? None. So I struggle to understand why these same people assume they can now procure a service hosted in Sydney, Singapore or the USA and it will perform the same or better than an application delivered across town over a dedicated network. Latency and Jitter have a fundamental impact on how applications perform and end users within a business will not put up with performance that is less than a traditionally delivered solution.
If you're looking at moving to the cloud you need to consider networking as well. It may seem like an oxymoron but if you want happy customers, the two must go together.
What about businesses? What's in it for them with the cloud?
Businesses are potentially the real winner from the mass development and adoption of cloud services. We are beyond the early adopter phase and the hype is now reality. The benefits range from cost savings through to increased reliability and access to services smaller businesses wouldn't have normally been able to afford.
IT teams would typically buy their storage in large fixed chunks from hardware vendors which means they are purchasing in advance of their needs. Now they can buy what they need when they need it.
Because of their scale cloud platforms are inherently very reliable and have built-in high availability. Traditionally a small or medium sized business bought a PABX or firewall for example, but they normally could not justify the price of buying two in the event that one breaks. When they buy a cloud service the provider includes this.
A lot of applications and IT infrastructure has been very high end and only big corporates could afford it. This could be things such as billing platforms, load balancers, CRM systems and accounting packages. With the cloud, businesses pay per seat or instance so a wider range of businesses can now get access to the features they want within their budgets.
How well (or poorly) is New Zealand positioned to take advantage of this entire cloud thing?
There are limitations due to geographical location and the performance issues this creates so we do need to be selective on where we procure a service from. Australia is becoming a content hub, in particular Sydney, with the presence of Google, Amazon and shortly Microsoft which does put New Zealand in a good position.
What advantages or disadvantages do you see for NZ as the cloud begins to take off?
The advantages are only limited by the willingness of businesses and their IT teams or consultants to try things and take a pragmatic pick'n'mix approach to cloud services.
The disadvantages will be when these same teams go just for cost saving reasons and expect the users in the business to accept the performance of a service hosted offshore through a standard Internet connection.
What examples do you have of the cloud transforming businesses?
I'll use the small accounting company my wife works for. In a lot of accountancy companies compliance work is still done on in-house computer platforms, paper copies kept in folders and staff really need to be in the office to do any work. The company my wife works for now uses Xero and all work papers and client documents are kept securely in the cloud. Communication is done over Skype. This means staff can truly work anywhere and be extremely efficient.
What factors should a business evaluate before embracing the cloud as part of any IT strategies?
The fundamental question is 'what are we trying to achieve and what business improvement are we looking for?'. Is it cost savings, access to new features, a shift to mobility, concerns about availability and the like?.
For most businesses it doesn't need to be a revolution. An evolution is a better process from my perspective and a good time to review cloud options is when software contracts are coming up for renewal, hardware is end of life and due to be replaced or there is a new driver in the business which needs to be addressed.
You mention that locality and connectivity should be a fundamental part of your decision making process? Why?
At the end of the day end users in the business are going to be affected by the performance of these decisions. Location of the cloud solution and how you connect to it have the biggest impact on the acceptance you will get from end users in your business.
These users don't care how a service is delivered; what they care about is that it works the same or better than the existing service.
When Microsoft Office 365 launched in NZ we had several new customers come to us because their service providers were routing to Singapore (where Office 365 is hosted) via the USA.
This meant end users became extremely frustrated with the delays for completing even the simplest task. Kordia had established a direct connect to Microsoft which meant we could provide our customers with the shortest delay and most consistent service experience.
It is also why we have established similar connections to Amazon and Google. Even in NZ we have core network connectivity into more than 20 of the largest datacentres to make sure that our service experience is one our customers are proud to offer their users.