Cloud improves data centers

A new study from CSC finds cloud makes good on data center efficiencies.

Global IT services provider CSC recently released a study on cloud computing, and I had the opportunity to talk with two of CSC’s executives about the study and the company’s own cloud offerings. You can see the study, titled CSC Cloud Usage Index, here.

Before sharing some of the interesting findings, let me point out that this was a pretty comprehensive study: it was conducted by independent research firm TNS, which surveyed more than 3,500 cloud computing users in eight countries. Small, medium and large private and public sector organizations were represented in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Singapore. Interviews were conducted between October 2011 and November 2011. The goal, according to CSC, was to learn about outcomes and experiences regarding cloud, rather than predictions and intentions.

Some of the highlights, as explained in the executive summary, are this:

• One-third of respondents cite their need to better connect employees who use a multitude of computing devices as the number one reason they adopt cloud. Cost-cutting was cited by just 17 percent as the most important factors in their move to the cloud.

• That said, 82 percent said they’ve saved money on their most recent cloud project (but savings aren’t big, as 35 percent of U.S. organizations reported payback of less than $20,000).

And for me, one of the key findings for this blog is that a whopping 93 percent said cloud has improved some aspect of their IT operations. And the most common improvement? Data center efficiency and utilization. In fact, 52 percent of users report increased data center efficiency and utilization from their cloud implementations.

It was this improvement – data center efficiency and utilization – that I had the opportunity to discuss with Siki Giunta, VP of Global Cloud and Hosting Services at CSC, and Sunil Bhargava, global portfolio executive for Cloud and Hosting Services at CSC.

It isn’t that I am surprised by these findings. I’m not. But I often think of cloud’s effects on data centers in terms of how cloud is going to transform ownership and management of data centers, and how it is impacting the overall data center market (and of course, cloud is affecting these areas… more on that in an upcoming blog).

I havent' been sure whether cloud was actually affecting the day-to day operations for companies. Mostly where I hear of efficiencies and improvements in data centers revolves around improvements in server utilization (via virtualization) and in turn, energy utilization.

It can be hard to separate virtualization form cloud.

“Where is the tail and the head of the dog?” as CSC’s Giunta puts it. “You have to virtualize before you cloud enable, that’s true, and virtualization has given us a lot of efficiencies.”

But Giunta says cloud moves the improvement needle even further. Sure, virtualization lets multiple applications run on a single server, but cloud models are designed to deliver abstracted IT resources on-demand, often in a multi-tenant environment.

“With virtualization, you might reduce your server footprint but you haven’t created extra capacity that is on demand whenever you need it,” she says.

Also, cloud computing models are engaging the whole business, not just IT, says Bhargava. That, in turn, can drive greater value. That value is largely realized through increased agility.

I’ve heard that before, like late last year when I spoke with Sharon Pitt, executive director with George Mason University’s Division of Instructional Technology. The university leverages a mix of cloud services in both private and public cloud models. Pitt said essentially the same thing – that many at GMU are asking for and expecting IT to support the cloud services they’ve discovered and now use and that the cloud services GMU now employs is providing greater elasticity (and agility) to IT groups so they can respond appropriately and with yes answers more often than they’ve ever been able to.

Now that’s improvement.

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