Siki Giunta, Global Vice President of Cloud Computing and Software Services for CSC, helped ACG members at the May meeting better understand the concept of cloud computing as well as the benefits it can provide to their own businesses and to those of the clients they serve. Cloud computing is a business strategy that links people and technology in a different way. Rather than maintaining programs and data on individual computers, a cloud model maintains these items on a central server accessible to authorized users via a network, often the Internet. Web-based e-mail is a basic example of a cloud-based system; a user logs onto a website and manages correspondence online rather than downloading e-mails into a program on a computer and responding to them from there.

Ms. Giunta described three aspects of a cloud implementation. First, businesses need to shape a clear strategy for cloud migration. Questions need to be answered about an organization’s key applications and whether they can be delivered over the Internet. Next, the work of transformation begins. Applications that have resided on individual computers are redesigned to be housed on a central server and accessed remotely. Lastly, the business and its consultants move into the delivery phase, where modified applications are moved off of employee laptops and onto secure servers. Delivery can be achieved either by building a private cloud on premises at the business or by leasing capacity on a server maintained elsewhere. Final delivery also often results in a hybrid cloud, where a cloud solution is integrated with a physical server. A common example of this application includes a database that exists on a physical server with applications that analyze it run from the cloud.

CSC’s VP pointed out that the costs of moving to the cloud are significant, but the move can deliver a high return on investment. She estimated that a typical large company pays about $6 million to create a cloud system and incurs some additional costs associated with moving in. Most businesses will engage a cloud service provider to create and manage the system. Initially, businesses see a cost savings of approximately 20% on infrastructure maintenance. As time goes by, the efficiency of running the businesses applications in the cloud can deliver savings up to 40% over pre-cloud operational costs.

Ms. Giunta explained that questions about security in the cloud are often asked during the shaping phase of cloud migration. She told the ACG attendees that cloud configurations can be designed across a broad spectrum of security requirements. Some configurations will be highly secure and others may be very open. The key to delivering the right level of security for each customer’s cloud is ensuring that the advisor and the client understand the risk profile of the cloud solution that it chooses to implement. In her work, she sees everything from government agencies to small businesses moving into the cloud and can find levels of security and agility that meet each of their needs.

Looking to the future, Ms. Giunta emphasized that with cloud, it’s all about the apps. When you think of consumer cloud usage, apps for Apple and Android operating systems are about 90% cloud. However, she pointed out that existing data storage methods may keep many hybrid cloud structures linked to proprietary physical servers for some time to come.