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All systems go for industry's expansion

Published on Friday, 25 Feb 2011
Photo: iStockphoto
Gabriel Leung, General Manager, EMC Hong Kong and Macau
Andrew Samson, General Manager of Hong Kong and Macau, Hitachi Data Systems

One skill is vital for professionals in the information technology (IT) sector - the ability to explain their work in terms the rest of the world can understand.

So, when Gabriel Leung is describing how cloud computing will change everyone's approach to data storage services, he is quick to draw an analogy with the local power industry.

"We don't all need our own generators at home because we can rely on [energy provider] CLP," says the general manager of EMC Hong Kong and Macau. "Cloud is the equivalent for IT [efficiency], in that it will give economies of scale and allow companies to remain competitive without having to maintain their own IT infrastructure."

He also likens this development - in effect a move to third-party providers - to the "globalisation of IT". The result will be an increase in flexibility and capacity for users, without compromising speed or security.

"We build an encrypted 32-digit `shell' on top of the data to have info-centric security," Leung says. "The technology for cloud is ready; the first step is to virtualise everything from server to apps, data storage and management."

Making change inevitable is the simple fact that yesterday's solutions - hard disc storage, in-house servers and so on - are fast becoming outdated in the era of "big data". That is industry shorthand for the exponential growth of electronic information, online communication and data storage requirements in almost every area and type of business.

Leung says using cloud computing will be like plugging in with a utility company and having IT services at your fingertips.

He cautions, though, that special care will be needed in migrating to the new model in terms of governance, regulation and compliance (GRC).

"This is a paradigm shift in the IT industry, so we have to make sure [customers'] data is properly protected from end to end," he says. Already, such requirements are leading to the creation of new roles with both service providers, such as EMC, and major corporations set to become users. Leung foresees any number of new job classifications prefaced by the word "cloud" for administrators, architects, engineers, project managers and sales people.

In addition, there will be extra demand for consultants and risk management specialists who can guide corporate users towards the appropriate levels of service and security to support their day-to-day business operations.

"Most universities now have cloud computing courses and provide training in the fundamentals of the journey," Leung says. "There has to be a solid bridge between business users and service providers. The major trends are very dynamic, so multinationals, airlines, banks and other sectors will also have a need for in-house expertise."

Andrew Sampson, general manager of Hong Kong and Macau for Hitachi Data Systems, points out that a key attraction of the related move to storage virtualisation is the chance to lower costs while improving flexibility.

He explains that, with the phenomenal growth in stored data, many companies face a real challenge trying to manage it effectively, without costs running out of control or the business grinding to a halt.

"Even very large companies will say they don't know how to align their infrastructure with their applications," Sampson says. "So, there is a role for us to play, not just providing technology, but managing services to achieve the outcomes that customers want."

In doing this, he notes, it is typical to look at three tiers of storage and performance.

The first is for "mission critical" data; for example an airline booking system or a bank's ATM network. The others are for less important though still necessary business data, as assessed by the customer's own criteria.

"Usually, the storage infrastructure is fairly generic, but the system is smart enough to know if data is not accessed and will then move it to a lower level," Sampson says.

With more customers ready to invest in transforming their approach to data management, Hitachi expects to see consistent business growth and to continue hiring in the coming months.

A key priority will be to find consultants and system architects able to design solutions and ensure effective service delivery.

"The talent pool is quite small, so it can be difficult to find people with the right experience and the more sophisticated skills," Sampson says.


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