Cloud Computing

Ali Ahmar (Global) - Cloud Based Life: Business at the Sharp End of the Cloud

It is incredible how ‘connected’ people’s lives are today.  Increasingly sophisticated wireless devices are becoming common every day tools with people expected to be ‘connected’ wherever they are. 

Forrester(1) estimates that 66% of workers in the U.S. and Western Europe now work remotely. If that has direct commercial value and gives a competitive edge for businesses. 

Employees need to be able to work online where ever they are in the world. They NEED that access - to email, to the sales system, to the database, to the corporate intranet - to do their job, to book their flights home, to not miss that sale, and to secure the best price.  And this can happen because today the applications and data used to do their job reside in that undefined ‘cloud’. 

In this environment, remote workers and remote devices lead to ‘remote’ data and ‘remote’ applications, which places huge strain on IT resources; the IT department can’t be relaxed in their attitude to where/how vital applications and data are held, accessed, or associated security concerns.  The move towards a more mobile, connected work environment means the enterprise’s assets are less physical and more ‘virtual’, and this shift requires a different approach in terms of IT management.

So what is ‘cloud’?  If you ask 100 people you may get 100 different definitions, but most commonly, cloud is a way of making data or IT resources available, enabling almost immediate access when it is requested and/or required through Internet technologies. So rather than having to purchase and install more software licenses when increasing headcount in a given department – for example – cloud means employees can utilize and access spare application licenses stored on another department’s servers without having to re-configure the network connections.  Or they can access them from servers belonging to another company entirely through a pay-as-you-use model like SaaS (Software as a Service).

The increased flexibility, managed and predictable cost, and considerable reduction on both CAPEX and OPEX, have seen demand and adoption of cloud-services – or ‘public cloud’ – offered by services providers, IT companies and consultancies grow significantly over the last 18 months.  And it is easy to understand why. Why incur significant cost, and endure complexity and a long implementation - purchasing servers, software licenses, training and network technology and possibly even additional staff to roll-out a new application - when companies can call their services provider and ask them to make a specific application available to certain staff and know that they’ll be able to do so within hours?  For the cloud-surfing remote-worker, the simplicity of being able to access applications simply by logging-on, or being able to request and get that access at the click of a few keys, is a revolution.

Companies in the Middle East need the right network to assure connectivity to the cloud.  In a true ‘virtual enterprise’, the network infrastructure must be cloud-optimised through a highly virtualized environment that is simple, flexible and scalable, offering high performance and secure connectivity.  By virtualizing the infrastructure, IT departments have the flexibility to move assets around the enterprise, and ensure there is enough resource to support them.  The cloud-optimized network is designed to reduce cost, improve agility, and extend virtualization across the data center. A key enabling technology is Ethernet fabric – a new approach to network design that is revolutionizing data center architectures.  Compared to classic hierarchical Ethernet networks, the Ethernet fabric delivers higher levels of performance, utilization, availability, and simplicity.

By enabling the virtual data center and providing a platform for cloud migration, Ethernet fabrics ensure ‘always-on’ availability and simplify network management, which in turn increases end-user productivity while reducing operational costs. So as far as the data center is concerned, if virtualization revolutionized computing, Ethernet fabrics are revolutionizing networking.

A cloud-optimized network means more access, more speed and, fewer ‘network’ issues.  But if enterprises try and build a cloud on old plumbing and traditional network designs, then they will just end up with problems raining down while the IT department drowns... in data, in support calls, in system failures.

Fabrics are perfect for delivering a virtualized infrastructure, so everyone can enter the cloud and embrace the evolution; and more importantly have access to the applications and data that they rely on.  Welcome to the cloud!

1: Forrester, June 7, 2011 - 'Demystifying the Mobile Workforce'


By Ali Ahmar, regional sales manager, MENA, Brocade Communications


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