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Cloud Computing: Intelligence, Resources and Models

Cloud computing is a disruptive delivery model for IT services. It will help Enterprises to innovate their business model and IT services delivery model for customers, employees, and suppliers and thus improve their competitiveness...

An enterprise can opt for either the traditional model or a cloud model to deliver IT services. Under the traditional model, the enterprise first purchases hardware such as servers and storage devices, leases network bandwidth, and perhaps builds a data center. The enterprise then purchases licenses for operating system software and the software applications needed for delivering the required functionality. Of course, professional IT staff must be engaged to maintain the hardware and software. As the business grows and customers require new functionality, new hardware and software must be provided and software customized, while ensuring the interoperability between the old and new hardware and software. This process must be repeated whenever capacity is expanded or a new functional module is added.

Cloud computing changes this completely.

New Service Delivery Model

Using the cloud delivery model, businesses can access information services without bothering with the deployment and maintenance of IT infrastructure. They can have information services customized for them, and at the same time purchase desired resources and services according to actual needs, without needing to pay for unnecessary capabilities. In addition, hardware maintenance is no longer a concern and reliability can be assured by signing a service level agreement (SLA). Businesses only need to concern themselves with information services without worrying about the infrastructure; when they need to expand capacity or add functions, they do not need to worry about hardware restrictions because required resources and modules can be added over a network.

Cloud computing has also changed the way information services are purchased. In the cloud, information services are customized and integrated, including infrastructure, operating system software and applications. This means that information services are available as a unit, which is already optimized, although the services can also be fine-tuned and dynamically adjusted. These services are then provided on the basis of actual usage, which means that an enterprise's major IT expenses will be OPEX instead of CAPEX, thus minimizing upfront costs.

Developing a Cloud Strategy

Cloud computing is a disruptive change to the traditional business model for IT because services can be acquired much more easily. As the infrastructure for an information-based society, it will allow people to use IT services as easily and economically as they use utilities services. However, enterprises should be cautious about the adoption of cloud computing; they should use it to meet their actual needs rather than just follow the latest trend.

The adoption of cloud computing is a long-term, evolutionary process for an enterprise, but initial steps can be taken which bring the benefits of cloud computing to companies, without having to give up the security and control of their own IT system. This can be done by build-ing an internal cloud platform. First, the data center needs to be integrated, standardized, and optimized; second, the data center needs to be transformed by means of virtualization, storage, and a service-oriented architecture (SOA); third, an elastic and dynamic IT infrastructure needs to be put in place so that IT resources can be flexibly utilized as required. (In a cloud-based architecture, the number of servers and storage devices for a particular application can be decreased or increased in line with business needs without affecting or interrupting services). This architecture is primarily intended to optimize existing IT resources; the deployment of IT resources for different applications is a secondary consideration.

Higher Profile for IT Professionals

Cloud computing will have a large impact on the role of IT professionals. When cloud computing is implemented, their role will be transformed from operations and maintenance (O&M) to planning and implementation. Cloud computing will not put the jobs of enterprise IT professionals at risk, but it will require that they operate at a higher level. They will spend more time on business processes, contract negotiations with suppliers, and supplier management, rather than spending most of their time on the CPU, storage, and environmental systems. In other words, they will be participating in the company's business activities as functional leaders capable of providing strategic insight into technology matters.

Though cloud computing will not lead to a narrower career path for them, IT professionals must align their direction to the development of cloud computing. As mentioned above, they will probably have less O&M work, and more high-level work such as IT planning, implementation, and partner evaluation.

Cloud computing provides a wonderful opportunity for IT professionals to upgrade their professional expertise, though they may be faced with challenges in the beginning. Unlike other technological evolutions, cloud computing is actually a knowledge revolution — a transformative process from traditional data center to cloud services.

Intelligence, Resources, and Models

Technological advances drive business progress. A key factor of Globalization success is global access to information. The cloud business supports globalization and as globalization continues to expand, so will the cloud industry.

Cloud computing is essentially represented by intelligence, resources, and models. The CIO of an enterprise should focus on integrating enterprise IT resources by wisely using the intelligence of computers and cloud computing so that an innovative IT service delivery model can be created. The CEO should be concerned with how to integrate enterprise resources by wisely leveraging the resources of the enterprise with the intelligence of IT resources and cloud computing. Then the enterprise can have an innovative business model and IT service delivery model for customers, employees, and suppliers — improving the enterprise's competitiveness. "Smart City" and "Smart Earth" are only ideas about the integration of resources to form a service delivery model. Cloud computing is a difficult term, because it is not only a computing concept, but also carries different meanings for different people, enterprises, and industries.

Globalization provides opportunities for every enterprise and nation. Many enterprises are already on this journey and many more are planning to join in. Cloud computing provides enterprises with key tools they need to succeed in global competition.

(Dr. Lei Wanyun, Director of the Information Department, Sinopharm Group, and associate leader of the Group's Informatization Steering Team, is a renowned expert and practitioner in the cloud computing field. He is working with the Group's cloud computing planning project, a landmark project in the evolutionary process of migrating to cloud computing for Chinese group enterprises.)

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