Executive Corner: Interview with Ric Telford, Vice President, IBM Cloud Services (Part 2 of 2)

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Below is part 2 of my interview with Ric Telford, Vice President, IBM Cloud Services. Catch up on part 1 here.

Vasfi Gucer: Do you have any suggestions for how a company should get started with cloud computing?

Ric Telford: Yes let’s take that in the same vein, by company size. Small and medium business should start looking at the public cloud services available today, look at what they host internally and where they feel comfortable moving to a public cloud; so in IBM for example, we offer Lotus Live, which does collaboration and email.

In this day and age for a small company, there’s really no reason for them to run their own email infrastructure; moving to a system like Lotus Live on the public cloud is a good way to get your toe in the water; with cloud computing for little risk and not that much expense. I mean it runs from around 5 – 15 US dollars per mailbox per month so it’s a compelling value proposition for those companies.

Now for large enterprises that want to get started in a private cloud, we generally first move non-production workloads like development and test or infrastructure as a service to a private cloud, and we’ll build a private cloud for an enterprise and we’ll start them in non-production. That way they don’t have to worry about introducing risks into their production applications right away; they can get comfortable with the cloud delivery model with lower risks, lower priority applications, and then the production applications.

So, those are the two examples of ways to get started in cloud whether you’re a small or medium business or whether you’re a large enterprise.

Vasfi Gucer: What are the top considerations enterprise clients should take into account when selecting a cloud solution provider?

Ric Telford: What I tell clients is you should not have to compromise from your own standards to your cloud service provider for the workloads that we’re talking about — so not every workload, not every application requires, 99.999 percent availability.

Our goal is to get to that level of applications eventually because we are focused on those for the enterprise. But for applications that you’re thinking of moving to the cloud, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own internal standards for however you run that application.

Look for enterprise cloud service providers that meet your security needs, meet your data privacy needs, meet your service level agreement, and so on. That way can also help guide which workloads you move to the cloud first because obviously those that have the least amount of concern as far as availability, performance, security, and so on could be those first ones that you end up moving out to a public cloud service provider.

Vasfi Gucer: What is the effect on traditional IT organizations with the adoption of cloud computing?

Ric Telford: There can be any number of effects; that’s rather a broad question, so let’s talk about a few of them. Number one is that there is going to be a cultural change that IT organizations need to go through whereby they think about delivering many of their services in more of a self-service model.

This allows them to optimize the labor they have and leverage automation and self-service to provide some services to their end users — especially in a large enterprise. I think of it sometimes as like the transformation the banking industry went through; tellers no longer needed to do certain transactions such as withdraw cash from your checking account, because with the introduction of the ATM, you could go straight to the ATM to do that transaction.

IT is much the same way — with cloud there are certain things that IT organizations do today that they shouldn’t really do; IT should allow automation and self-service to take care of those transactions. So figuring out what those transactions are, what those services are and transitioning them from a labor-based model to an automation-based model is definitely a change for some IT organizations.

Another change is once you have a cloud — especially a robust private cloud infrastructure in your enterprise — you’ll be able to do things you couldn’t do before; it’ll free-up resources to focus more on business-differentiating services rather than on traditional, mundane infrastructure services.

So that will have a definite positive effect on most IT organizations; allowing them to tackle more of the things in the path that their businesses have been asking them to do but that they’ve been unable to get to before because they didn’t have the people. Now with cloud, you should be able to free up people to do those kinds of things because they have to do less of the more manual, mundane steps that they have to do today.

Vasfi Gucer: Can you provide examples of specific industries and applications that are good candidates to move to the cloud?

Ric Telford: Let’s start with applications. We talked about development and test, we talked about collaboration and email; those are both good applications. We talked about infrastructure as a service, which is essentially delivering virtual servers, and virtual storage on demand as a service, and “pay as you go.” Within storage, there is backup and recovery, as well as moving your lower tier storage out to cloud. These are all infrastructure areas that are good places to start with moving to the cloud.

Analytics is one area we’re looking at today for moving out to the cloud; being able to create private or public clouds from analytic services, some packaged applications, such as, SAP where IBM is working with a lot of clients on their SAP instances, and figuring out how to optimize those applications for the cloud.

Those are all specific examples we give of applications; by industry one of the things that we focus on as part of our IBM Smarter Planet initiative is looking at part of government, for example; part of smarter government is having municipal clouds. We announced a federal cloud where you have a common application development and deployment platform for applications built and delivered out of the cloud.

And, we have worked with healthcare providers, mostly in the private cloud space where they can pool their resources within, say, a medical group so they can have shared infrastructure between doctors’ offices; sometimes doctors might be affiliated with the medical group, but they’ll have to somehow integrate their IT systems with those of the medical group. That’s a good place to have one shared cloud between them.

So, I think every industry will have unique requirements; that is, building a shared cloud infrastructure can help to create a more cost-effective and efficient services.

Vasfi Gucer: What do you think about the open standards in cloud computing and can you talk about IBM’s participation in these open cloud initiatives?

Ric Telford: Yes. IBM has been, from the early days of cloud, very much focused on looking for where it makes sense to have open interfaces in cloud.

We jointly published, back in 2009, the open cloud manifesto. We essentially said, along with many other companies, we should leverage open standards where they exist. Where standards don’t exist, then we should work together to define open standards, whether it be data formats, protocols, APIs, and so on.

So, IBM is involved in a number of those standards and we’ll continue to push for how that makes sense and where it makes sense — open interfaces to our cloud services, and open standards that we can leverage as part of the cloud services stack.

Vasfi Gucer: Thank you very much, and I look forward to your guests posts coming to Thoughts on Cloud in October!

About Ric Telford
Ric Telford is Vice President, IBM Cloud Services. Since joining IBM in 1983, he has led several key initiatives at the forefront of new technologies. He served as Director of Technology for the IBM CIO, responsible for the development, implementation and adoption of e-business technologies in IBM. His previous position was VP of Autonomic Computing; he was responsible for defining and driving the Autonomic Computing initiative for IBM.

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