Cloud Computing’s Benefits Begin to Emerge

Data centers are usually extremely underutilized and are often idle about 85 percent of the time. Public or private cloud computing architectures can provide significant advantages for production plants of all sizes.

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Today’s world is full of many emerging and disruptive technologies. ARC believes that cloud computing is among the most important. The concept generally incorporates combinations of services, such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). Related technologies include grid computing, utility computing, and autonomic computing.

In some cases, moving plant data to the cloud can be as simple as buying a smart phone on a rental/contract basis. Furthermore, most software systems today are readily available in the cloud, and can be deployed and used within a short time frame.

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ARC Advisory Group’s Tenth India Forum in Hyderabad, India, July 5-7, featured an interactive session on cloud computing, which can help simplify business processes at affordable cost through the use of virtualized servers, infrastructure, and other technology. C. S. R. Prabhu, deputy director general (Scientist G) at India’s National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Andy Chatha, president of ARC Advisory Group, gave presentations that covered the technology’s history and current status including various architecture, service and deployment models. They also used NIC’s cloud implementations to explain end-user benefits and facts versus myths regarding cloud computing.

Data centers are usually extremely underutilized, and are often idle about 85 percent of the time. They typically suffer from drawbacks such as over-provisioning, insufficient capacity planning and sizing, and improper understanding of scalability requirements.

Thought leaders from ARC and other market research and analyst firms agree that cloud computing can offer significant advantages for fast-paced start-ups, small-and medium-sized businesses and larger enterprises alike as it provides cost-effective solutions for key business demands and moves workloads to improve efficiency. 

Key cloud computing characteristics can provide significant benefits for users of the technology.  These include:

· Agility—on demand computing infrastructure is linearly scalable.

· Reliability and fault tolerance—self-healing, efficient backups. 

· Service level agreement driven—SLA policies state how quickly requests are processed.

· Multi tenancy—several customers can share infrastructure without compromising privacy and security of other customers’ data.

· Service orientation—applications are composed out of loosely coupled services so one service failure will not disrupt others.

· Virtualization—applications decoupled from underlying hardware mean multiple applications can be run in one computer.

· Data management—distributing, partitioning, securing and synchronizing data is easier.

Public clouds exist beyond firewalls and are fully hosted and managed by the vendors. Public clouds offer startups and small businesses quick setup and automated management with a pay-as-you-go model that helps companies start small and grow as needed. However, security and compliance issues hinder the adoption of public cloud computing applications.

Private clouds
Private clouds, in contrast, exist within the boundaries of the organization’s firewall. Unlike the public cloud, private clouds allow organizations to manage on their own. Some advantages include fine-grained control over resources; increased security; and the flexibility to schedule and reshuffle resources based on business demands. Private clouds are ideal for applications related to tight security and regulatory concerns but development requires hardware investments and in-house expertise. This results in higher cost than for public clouds.

For small companies, scalability and cost issues often outweigh the need for reliability.  However, large organizations can choose a private cloud based on security, privacy and control concerns. Most industries in Asia do not have large data centers, and cloud computing can provide them with an opportunity to leapfrog.

The most important and valuable assets in the plant include people; equipment and devices; and systems (control, manufacturing execution, asset management, and other systems); plus, information about the above. To improve the performance of each of these assets, industries should rely on new technology solutions such as cloud computing

>> Naresh Kumar Surepelly, nsurepelly@arcweb.com, is an Analyst at ARC Advisory Group in Dedham, Mass.

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