Integrating Clouds Into the IT InfrastructureBy Samuel Greengard Print
Firms that successfully integrate clouds and existing IT infrastructure can achieve agility, flexibility and transformation that was unimaginable a few years ago.
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Integrating clouds into an IT infrastructure requires more than physically connecting systems, PwC's Pearl says. "It's important to develop a governance model that allows for a great deal of flexibility in the business, while maintaining a level of control and security for IT." Ultimately, he adds, an organization must create an environment "that drives speed to market, introduces the right capabilities and avoids fragmentation of business processes."
Along the way, there's a need to address and manage shadow IT: the purchase of cloud services on an ad hoc basis from outside the domain of the IT organization. Otherwise, as Gartner's Pezzini points out, organizations can wind up with shadow integration and resulting gaps in processes and workflows.
Stitching together clouds and existing IT infrastructure is at the center of a strategy for Critical Mention. The New York City-based company aggregates and distributes real-time video across the globe. It operates about 200 points of presence across four continents and digitizes about 40 hours of live television every 60 seconds.
The company has about 1,500 clients, ranging from large companies, such as McDonald's and Mercedes Benz, to government agencies, public relations firms and nonprofits. Clients create filters and they are alerted in real-time when a video segment matches their criteria.
"We are a technology-centric company that places huge demands on systems," says founder and CEO Sean Morgan. The company currently holds approximately 1 petabyte of data.
Critical Mention has plugged in a number of cloud services and capabilities into a private cloud. These include disaster recovery, quality assurance, development and demonstration environments, business intelligence software and post-processing tasks.
During Hurricane Sandy, the firm's disaster recovery strategy, which revolved around data redundancy on multiple servers, was knocked offline for four days, and the business took a significant financial hit, Morgan says. Today, a cloud infrastructure hosted by Rackspace protects the data and also offers clients access to video segments seconds after they appear on news outlets such as Bloomberg, CNN and ABC.
Morgan says that the key to achieving success was mapping the flow of data and integrating servers and legacy systems with the cloud-based services. Engineers and IT staff then worked closely with cloud infrastructure provider Rackspace to integrate various hardware and software systems.
"At the end of the day, it's about providing the best service possible to our customers, including greater stability and four-nines uptime," Morgan says. "The cloud plays a crucial role in delivering a platform that's necessary in the digital age."
The way Gartner's Pezzini sees it, IT departments must transition into serving as a cloud service broker and working with outside providers as well as internal constituents to deliver services in the most efficient way possible. This requires new technical skills along with an ability to communicate and collaborate in a way that wasn't necessary only a few years ago. It also requires new approaches.
For instance, Gartner predicts that by 2016, at least 35 percent of large and midsize organizations will use integration platform as a service (iPaaS). "In the new world of cloud, mobile, social and big data information, the CIO's role will increasingly revolve around being the 'Chief Integration Officer' for the organization," Pezzini explains.
Accenture's Benton points out that an enormous convergence is currently taking place, and the cloud now intersects with mobility strategies, social media, big data and more. While digital strategies vary across companies, the primary focus must be on how to deliver digital technology in the most efficient manner possible.
"It's a bit like 1999," he states. "Everyone knew they had to deliver an e-strategy, but not everyone understood how to integrate everything and build a viable business model. Today, organizations must deliver a digital agenda with an agile infrastructure."
PwC's Pearl adds that the ongoing march to cloud services is an opportunity to transform an organization and IT. "Whether clouds play a role at the application layer, the infrastructure layer or in managing data, the focus must be on how to bring together assets in more efficient ways and create greater value," he concludes.
"Clouds force IT organizations to fundamentally change their approach from serving as a back-office custodian of technology assets to a strategic services integrator and business leader."
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