Cloud computing - Microsoft Windows Azure
By Valerie Carmichael-Brown, CEO of Triniti Business Solutions
Computing is undergoing a seismic shift from client/server to the cloud, a shift similar in importance and impact to the transition from mainframe to client/server. Speculation abounds on how this new era will evolve in the coming years, and IT leaders have a critical need for a clear vision of where the industry is heading. What are the economics driving the long-term trend?
Triniti Business Solutions, a PPPM (portfolio, programme, and project management) and software solutions provider, recently underwent the transition as an organisation, providing cloud optimised platforms (platform as a service) and aligned its solutions as a SaaS (software as a service) offering.
The SaaS PPPM solution was successfully implemented on the cloud platform using Microsoft SharePoint 2010 technology to Modikwa Mines, and is being implemented across a financial service provider, an EPCM and a second mine during May 2012.
Triniti Business Solutions was recently selected for a Microsoft Partner Programme: Financial Services Global Outlook 2012-2015 Partner Guide, as the “Top 3 SA 2012-2015 partner”; and selected as the “Top 5 International 2012-2015 partner”, and is excited around its cloud strategy and client implementations.
In the ever-changing world of technology, CIOs and IT teams often find themselves unsure of the correct “IT strategy to implement”. One of the key questions often asked to the Triniti consulting team is: “How do we know that the cloud is the best investment for us, and is it here to stay, and more importantly, what is Microsoft's strategy?” As an ISV partner of Microsoft, Triniti thought it best to ask Microsoft directly to share its views and comments.
Gareth Jane of Microsoft commented:
The Microsoft Cloud Platform, Windows Azure, adheres to the five essential characteristics of a cloud platform. Windows Azure is “an open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centres. You can build applications using any language, tool or framework. And you can integrate your public cloud applications with your existing IT environment.”
Companies throughout South Africa are already starting to deploy applications onto the Windows Azure Platform - which will be available commercially in South Africa towards the middle of this year. In the process, they are starting to realise the cost, performance and management benefits associated with leveraging cloud computing as an application platform.
According to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (eg, networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics.”
These essential characteristics are:
1. On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
2. Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (eg, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
3. Resource pooling. The provider's computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources, but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (eg, country, state, or data centre). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
4. Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
5. Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimise resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (eg, storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilised service.
Is cloud computing here to stay?
When cars emerged in the early 20th century, they were initially called “horseless carriages”. Understandably, people were sceptical at first, and they viewed the invention through the lens of the paradigm that had dominated for centuries. Initially, there was a broad failure to fully comprehend the new paradigm. Banks claimed “the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad”. By the 1920s, the number of cars had already reached 8 million and today over 600 million. What the early pioneers failed to realise was that profound reductions in both cost and complexity of operating cars and a dramatic increase in its importance in daily life would overwhelm prior constraints and bring cars to the masses.
Today, IT is going through a similar change: the shift from client/server to the cloud. Cloud promises not just cheaper IT, but also faster, easier, more flexible, and more effective IT.
Cloud also allows core IT infrastructure to be brought into large data centres that take advantage of significant economies of scale in three areas:
* Supply-side savings: Large-scale data centres lower costs per server.
* Demand-side aggregation. Aggregating demand for computing smoothes overall variability, allowing server utilisation rates to increase.
* Multi-tenancy efficiency. When changing to a multitenant application model, increasing the number of tenants (ie, customers or users) lowers that application management and server cost per tenant.
In conclusion, Microsoft commented: “At Microsoft, we are 'all in' on the cloud. We provide both commercial SaaS (Office 365) and a cloud computing platform (Windows Azure Platform). Microsoft has over 600 000 partners in more than 200 countries, servicing millions of businesses. We are already collaborating with thousands of our partners on the cloud transition. Together, we are building the most secure, reliable, scalable, available cloud in the world.