Demystifying the Cloud

The rise of cloud computing, shared services and mobile devices over recent years are just some of the factors that have changed the way that ICT services are consumed and the way that people communicate and do business together. These technologies are providing businesses and public sector organisations with opportunities to reduce costs while at the same time improving services and productivity.

In the private sector, eir has seen traction in the adoption of cloud based services especially with customers requiring the scalability and flexibility cloud offers to meet customer demands. eir recently announced a strategic partnership with Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), a world leader in cloud computing, to offer technology services to businesses in Ireland and the UK with early customers including the Irish Greyhound Board and Smyths Toys.

Commenting on their new cloud solution, Dryden Geary, Head of Marketing at Smyths Toys, said: “The eir solution provides scalability and reliability which is critical in the competitive online world. In addition, the flexibility to increase capacity on demand allows us to ensure we can always deal with the peak periods. Christmas 2012 was our busiest trading period online in the history of the company and with eir’s hosting solution we had perfect performance and service levels.”

In the public sector, security concerns are leading organisations to consider a private cloud approach with flexibility, environmental benefits and efficiency savings the top priorities. The Cabinet Office has developed its Public Service Network Programme (PSN) which includes a secure Wide Area Network(WAN) and a Government Cloud service with significant savings targeted.

Northern Ireland has been at the forefront of technology adoption over recent years with Network NI delivering many of the functional and commercial objectives of the PSN programme some five years in advance. We are now seeing very positive moves towards a shared private cloud service where public sector organisations can benefit from their combined spending power to achieve efficiency savings and potentially bring benefits for the ICT sector in Northern Ireland.

Irrespective of public, private or hybrid cloud deployments, with the centralisation of applications and computing power comes the challenge of ensuring reliable connectivity to these services and a consistent user experience regardless of the device the person is using or their location.

A number of key design considerations need to be given to the network connectivity element of a cloud based service to provide the application availability and service delivery targets required to support the business.

Network connectivity into the cloud needs to be sized to support the projected application access profiles in the cloud and include the ability to upgrade bandwidth at short notice in order to provide the scalability to meet business needs during peak usage periods.

With all shared service and collaboration solutions, quality of service (QOS) is a critical component to ensure that real time network traffic is prioritised across the network into the cloud. Symmetrical uncontended network access services provide the greatest level of control in providing an end to end QOS guarantee against application service delivery criteria. Ensuring that cloud based services are always available will drive the need to examine if diverse carrier connectivity into the cloud is required.

From an information assurance (IA) perspective, it is important to consider separation of sensitive data depending on impact level (IL) from the site into the cloud. Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG) and Cabinet Office guidelines on best practice secure network deployments will provide best practice design guidelines for reference.

eir has seen rapid growth since its entry to Northern Ireland in 2007 and now employs over 50 highly skilled staff in its Belfast office. The company has been awarded a place on the UK Government PSN framework, as one of 12 companies who can provide connectivity services to Government and G-Cloud providers.

eir provides secure Impact Level (IL) 2, 3 and 4 fully pro-active managed services to government in Northern Ireland and will continue to grow its Belfast operation by exporting its unique service offering to local government authorities in Great Britain who are starting on the journey of sharing services and adopting cloud services.