Last week, one of the biggest IT shows of the year, Cloud Expo, took place in London. For me, the greatest interest was in hearing how a diverse range of organisations are making use of cloud services.
Tom Read, the Ministry of Justice’s Chief Digital and Information Officer, described how they’ve now got a ‘cloud-by-default’ approach to sourcing new technology. He argues that the big providers, like Microsoft Azure, are better at hosting infrastructure than most organisations can ever be - being more resilient, secure and efficient. As Tom says, “If we can put prison services in the cloud, most businesses should be able to use it.”
It was fascinating to hear Save the Children’s Gerry Waterfield (Head of Global IT Services) describe how cloud helps the charity be more agile, and respond faster to emergencies. They use Office 365 and a cloud-based HR system to quickly get the right team together on the ground, and Facebook's Workplace. This enables workers to exchange information more quickly.
Unlike most of us, reliable power and hence connectivity are Gerry’s biggest challenges. Solar power and satellite comms form part of the solution and, with bandwidth often at a premium, the use of lightweight web apps also helps.
At an event of this scale, you can only catch a few of the speakers. But as well as the many governmental organisations, it was also notable just how many big financial institutions were sharing their cloud experiences. It’s a sector noted for its caution, an obsession with security and strict regulation, yet we had HSBC, Deutsche Bank, TSB and many more underlining just how mainstream cloud has become.
I heard the word commoditisation come up a few times. It’s not one I’m comfortable with – I think it devalues the intelligence and skills required to deliver and, more importantly, manage cloud environments successfully. I think we’re a long way from ‘one size fits all’ and, certainly based on the organisations we’ve been advising, there continue to be individual business needs and infrastructure challenges that dictate a variety of bespoke strategies. But then that’s what makes our jobs in IT so very interesting.