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Developing a hybrid cloud model

Thursday March 15 2012

Retail technology strategist Andy Taylor explains why no one cloud computing model will ever offer the perfect balance of security and cost for all of a retailer’s data – but how a hybrid model will

Retail technology strategist Andy Taylor explains why no one cloud computing model will ever offer the perfect balance of security and cost for all of a retailer’s data – but how a hybrid model will

 

Cloud computing provides flexibility, agility and cost savings – advantages that have driven the rapid acceleration of the pay-per-use delivery model across all sectors, according to Andy Taylor, head of retail strategy for Fujitsu UK and Ireland. However, he said: “Invariably the one objection that comes up time and again in my discussions with CIOs [chief information officers] is security – how secure is ‘the cloud’?”

 

Retailers deal daily with customer data. Taylor said it is the areas of the business where this data changes hands that creates the most nervousness about a cloud environment. This is followed swiftly by areas critical to real-time business processes. Factors such as the protection of reputation and consumer trust in the brand are becoming significant barriers to cloud adoption.

 

The economics of cloud computing

 

Taylor warned: “Neither can retailers ignore the obvious benefits of cloud-based services in today’s competitive, complex climate, where agility and innovation are fundamentals to business success.” And he advised: “Retailers need to be looking for cloud solutions that provide them with the best of both worlds – in-house delivered IT coupled with applications and infrastructure provided across a mix of public and private cloud(s). This will provide the flexibility and agility required to remain cutting edge and competitive while ensuring business critical data and processes are exactly as secure as they need to be – a hybrid cloud model.”

 

The different types of cloud solutions emerging have different characteristics and requirements – notably interoperability, data security, governance and cost. “Processing sensitive or business-critical data outside the enterprise introduces a level of risk because any outsourced service bypasses an organisation’s in-house security controls and puts security into the hands of a third party – while retaining internal responsibility over that data’s integrity,” he explained.

 

“In terms of bulletproof security, private cloud, custom-tailored to a single organisation and hosted on an accredited secure server with robust administrator control and supervision, cannot be beaten,” he continued. “However, the need for a dedicated infrastructure sees this method attract a significantly higher cost than other models and lacks the flexibility and economy of scalability that attracts organisations to public cloud.”

 

Matching cloud models to requirements

 

Being able to choose different cloud models to perform different roles is paramount to ensuring that retail technologists have the right answer when the chief executive asks “but is it secure?” “A composition of cloud models offering the benefits of multiple deployment models,” said Taylor. “As a simple example of hybrid’s use, a retailer’s customer management system is unlikely to be hosted anywhere other than a highly secure private cloud – but that organisation’s public-facing website containing non-sensitive information can be hosted cost effectively on a public cloud server.”

 

As with most forms of information security, the Fujitsu retail strategist said decisions that need to be made here boil down to effective risk management; and the type of cloud chosen has the biggest single impact on the level of risk and its manageability. “Retailers must assess the importance of the data they intend to move to the cloud, compartmentalising their cloud infrastructure and applications to apply the right controls in the right places and help contain the impact of possible security incidents,” he said.

 

However, he added that hybrid cloud’s most impressive benefits come from the seamless linking of different models through sophisticated orchestration of cloud provisioning, management and integration. “For example, retail organisations using largely private cloud services can ‘burst’ non-sensitive processing workloads to a public cloud to meet peak or highly elastic workloads. Or, they can split a workload across a global public cloud and a country-specific public cloud — depending on which elements of an application are publicly facing or involve the processing of customer data.

 

“Even the most initially apprehensive users of hybrid cloud have found that this model offers an unexpected level of flexibility in balancing cost, performance and security,” added Taylor. “Through careful risk management in terms of where data is placed, security is no longer a source of worry or apprehension; it has simply become another consideration in their risk management strategies and processes. Their experience informs future decisions about moving other services into cloud environments, in turn helping them make ever further strides along their cloud path.”