Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cloud computing - Infrastructure as a service IaaS

When things are in the cloud, the ground is clear.

An IT infrastructure is the backbone of IT applications and IT services.  Managers who are responsible for departmental IT matters would know all the issues associated with setting up and maintaining IT infrastructure in the department.  Work would start from the basic requirement of accommodating the infrastructure, that is, special accommodation requirements.  Usually, a secure room with uninterrupted power supply and temperature control is needed for the central servers and hubs.  Then a series of servers is required for various functions.  The servers are connected to individual terminals through a messy network of wire which could turn the office upside down.  This beast requires constant feeding and care-taking.  The manpower, attention and energy required for its up-keeping is enormous and continuous, not to mention the worry of interruption of service and its safety.

To get the infrastructure off the ground, managers first need to perform much work on procurement and installation.   IT hardware needs to be constantly maintained and upgraded.  The cycle of maintenance, system update, replacement and addition is never-ending.

What if someone else could do all these for the managers?  Cloud computing offers such an opportunity.  All those mentioned above could be put in the cloud.  Then all that the managers need to do is to dream about it.  IaaS Infrastructure as a service comes into play.

IaaS could be provided in private cloud, outsourced private cloud and public cloud.  Managers could expect the Government private cloud to be almighty.  OCGIO has tried her utmost to bring the capability of her data centres to a high level which should be capable of meeting all the needs of departmental applications.  A public cloud run by major IT service providers is even mightier.  They do that for a living.  For outsourced private cloud, the contractor would be happy to make the data centre for the department as versatile as possible.  When the infrastructure is in the cloud, all the associated daily chore of operation, backup, maintenance are taken care of as a package.  Managers only need to choose how to use the infrastructure.  They could safely assume all that is required are already in the cloud.  Procurement and installation of equipment for the cloud will be the task of the cloud keeper.  Managers could just pick what function they want from the cloud.  The rest is taken care of by the service charge, or by OCGIO data centres.

Besides saving a lot of effort for the departmental users, IaaS offers much benefits in cost saving through economy of scale and resource sharing.  With centralized procurement and system implementation, the infrastructure could be share-used by many different applications.  A strong and ready cloud support is scalable and could meet service change on demand.

Nevertheless, managers making use of IaaS should first know how to ask the right questions.  Up-to-date common knowledge of the IT infrastructure is still required, just like a government human resource manager who would need to know the Civil Service Regulations well.  Most importantly, managers need to know and understand what the cloud could do.  The technical details could be left to the technicians.

In a perfect scenario, which may not be feasible for all offices at present a least, we could foresee all back-office IT services to be carried out in the cloud.  The office could be linked to the cloud through one or a few leased broadband connections.  Users are then connected through wireless routers.  Officers are each assigned a notebook computer or tablet computers so that they could be mobile in the office when using IT services.  No network wiring is then required.  All that the managers need to do is to stock a few spare computers for replacement.

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