One of the often-hyped advantages of the cloud is the speed with which you can deploy a new service. In theory, you can whack down your credit card details and instantly have something working. But in reality, any full-scale shift to the cloud is going to require a planning process that takes months, if not years.
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That's certainly the case at Australian mortgage software provider Stargate. The organisation is no stranger to basic cloud operations. "We run our own private cloud and have done so for over a decade," operations manager Unal Altay said, though he noted that it wasn't labelled that way when it was introduced. "We just called it hosting."
Right now, Stargate is debating whether to make a change to its cloud and hosting arrangements. "Do we go public? Do we stick with private? What are the cost benefits? We'll be taking the next 12-18 months deciding on how we go," Altay said at a Brocade media event in Sydney yesterday. "We are in discussions with people like AWS and Azure and some private providers."
Some options appear more obvious than others. "We're a Microsoft development house, and we've actually got Azure running locally as well," Altay said. "For us to go fully cloud, it's virtually a cut-and-paste for something like Azure."
"It's all about application performance though. A lot of it is untried and unproven. We're taking our time; we're definitely not rushing into it."
In the meantime, cloud is mainly be used in a familiar test-and-dev scenario. "What AWS and Azure are doing makes it very easy for the customer to spin up some virtual machines and deliver applications. As a software development company, we might spin up a project for a test run. Rather than buying hardware, it's great to go online and just spin up some instances."
"Racks are real estate. If we want to do some work, I have to go out and spend more capital to get hardware, and then there's the ongoing cost associated. Cloud is easier."
Performance will also be a major issue. "We're looking at how to use software-defined networks to enhance the bandwidth of our CRM systems," Altay said. "We want to put training videos into them as well, and that's where bandwidth plays a key role. We also looking at storage acceleration to cut the number of IOs. We need to speed up delivery."
And then there's the familiar concern over data sovereignty. "One of the drawbacks of an AWS or an Azure is that your data's never just in Australia — it's being replicated overseas," Altay said. "If you change your mind five years down the track, how do you know you have all your data retrieved?"
Skunkworks cloud deployments for individual projects aren't about to stop. But if you're planning a transition to broader cloud usage, it won't be an overnight decision.