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Updated: February 7, 2011 18:46 IST

Up the ante in the 'cloud' game, with APPU

D. Murali
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K. Varadharjan, CEO of Chennai-based CloudsDirect. Photo: D. Murali
The Hindu K. Varadharjan, CEO of Chennai-based CloudsDirect. Photo: D. Murali

Gone are those days when we were stuck sitting in front of our computer to manage both our personal and professional computing needs, because cloud computing has liberated us from the need for powerful computer on our desks, declares www.cloudsdirect.com. “We live in a hyper-connected world with a digital lifestyle different from previous generations. Such a lifestyle is not a luxury any more. It is an essential component of a successful individual or organisation,” the site adds.

K. Varadharjan, CEO of Chennai-based CloudsDirect (http://bit.ly/F4TVaradh) likes to define cloud computing for non-techies in a way that could resonate with the terminologies they are already familiar, while he directs techies to read the definition put forth by NIST (http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/cloud-computing/), as ‘the best and least controversial definition about cloud computing.’

Cloud computing is the availability of raw compute power, storage and applications as services consumed over the Internet, begins Varadh, during a recent interaction with Business Line. All these services are delivered from the centralised infrastructure (called cloud) and accessible over browser or other thin clients, he continues. “The advantage of cloud-based services lies in the ‘pay per use’ consumption model. Under this model, users only pay for the services based on the time they used, much like electricity. Another interesting feature of cloud computing is the availability of these services any time from any location independent of devices.” We continue our interaction over the email.

Excerpts from the interview.

You spoke of APPU during our brief meeting? Can you offer some background information on it?

Most of the articles we see about cloud computing address the concept from a technical point of view. As a user introduced to cloud computing by my business partner who is a technical person, I wanted to understand it from a business perspective. My philosophy as a business executive is that technology is irrelevant as long as business processes are not optimised for maximum efficiency.

So, before I started using cloud-based services, I wanted to see how it optimised the business processes to make the organisation more productive and agile. I mapped the business processes in my organisation to the cloud-based services and evaluated if it increased the overall productivity and efficiency of our organisation compared to using traditional IT systems. This comparison helped me see the value in using cloud services.

I wanted to further quantify this value addition for businesses. In the telecom world, the service providers talk about ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and their business objective is to increase the ARPU. I thought we should have a similar measure which could help businesses evaluating cloud computing see the value through a more measurable parameter. I coined APPU, Average Productivity Per User, which should give a measure of increase in productivity with cloud-based solutions.

It is a semi-qualitative measure meant to give an overview of the productivity gain an organisation can make after moving to cloud. There is no straightforward way to measure this parameter and it depends on the organisation’s existing business processes.

Organisations considering a move to cloud should hire professional consultants who can help determine the APPU increase.

Is cloud computing useful just for IT services companies or is it useful in other verticals too?

Cloud computing is useful for businesses across many different verticals. From financial firms in Wall Street to pharma companies to agricultural businesses to construction companies, cloud computing is very useful. With every type of business using computing these days in their business processes, cloud computing can come handy for businesses in many different verticals.

Will moving to cloud disrupt an organisation’s existing workflow?

The short answer is no. But the long answer is it depends on the size of the organisation and the complexity of existing IT. Small and medium businesses with no or minimal IT can move to the cloud without any hindrance. However, larger organisations will need to hire system integrators to integrate cloud-based services with the existing legacy applications.

Yes, I said legacy applications because not every enterprise workload can be moved to cloud right now. Cloud computing, though it is mature, is still in early days. Over the next few years, we can expect to see most of the enterprise workloads moving to the cloud. With careful planning and execution, an organisation can move to cloud without any disruption to their existing work flow.

Is cloud computing safe? What happens in the case of downtime? Will it scale with the business?

These are all valid concerns for any business. For small and medium businesses, the default security in the cloud is much superior to what they can have in-house. For large organisations, there could be some regulatory requirements which might prohibit some of the workloads from going to cloud. However, cloud providers offer high levels of security comparable with the security inside the large enterprises.

Large organisations should not view cloud computing in terms of any risks associated with it. Rather, they should consider the advantages of cloud computing in terms of cost savings and business agility and then plan to mitigate any risks that may be present to their sensitive data. This also calls for due diligence on the part of large enterprises as they plan their move to cloud.

Downtime is not something unique to cloud computing itself. Since the services are delivered through the Internet, there are some additional points of failure like the last mile from the ISP. In the case of SMBs, any downtime in the cloud and associated productivity loss is minimum compared to the impact they have due to infrastructure in India like electricity. For them, the very availability of these services through any device and from any location may turn out to be better than what they have now. However, it is a different case for large businesses. It is important for them to consider the SLAs offered by the cloud providers and do due diligence to mitigate any disruptions due to failures in Internet access, etc.

Cloud computing scales much more seamlessly with any business growth than traditional computing. In the traditional world, it will take months to procure computing infrastructure to meet the growth. With cloud computing, it happens in matter of minutes to hours.

**

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