Cloud computing is booming. Especially in public clouds. But CIOs and CEOs have to tread carefully when picking public clouds, lest the booming they hear becomes the ear-shattering thunderclap of data theft instead of the soothing hum of a secure, profitable business. Here’s what to look out for.
Author: Sven Hansel Photos: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images, PR
Clouds are just boring clusters of water vapor – right? Not at all. Nephology, the sub-branch of meteorology that studies clouds, has detailed over 100 different cloud genera, species and varieties, each with its own special characteristics and features. Clouds can be harvested, too. In Chungungo, Chile, engineers set up plastic nets that capture fine droplets of water from clouds rolling in over the mountains above their homes from the Pacific Ocean. The droplets run down the nets and into pipes that carry the water several kilometers into the arid valley. This method extracts up to 110,000 liters of water a day. IT clouds are similar. They, too, come in a dizzying array of varieties and sub-types and can sometimes – but certainly not always – be “harvested” just as effectively as the fogcatchers in Chile. Public clouds are big business. According to the Cloud Monitor published by Bitkom and KPMG, over one-fourth (26 percent) of German companies use public cloud services. Last year, only 16 percent did. That blistering pace seems set to continue, too: eco, the German e-commerce association, and Arthur D. Little, a consultancy, forecast that public cloud services will grow as much as 40 percent a year until 2019 – making it a “turbo segment”, in their words. They expect the growth to fuel demand for IT integration solutions and on-site customer service – as well as improved legal certainty and better data protection.
„We wanted to switch our entire system to a provider who met the highest standards possible.“
Bernd Wrana, Head of IT, Schwaiger
CUSTOMERS PREFER GERMAN DATA PROTECTION LAWS
Those last two items are absolutely critical for Schwaiger, a German mid-market enterprise. The Bavarian communications company provides a full suite of home automation solutions: from solar-powered alarm systems on the roof to WiFi speakers in the living room right down to humidity sensors in the basement. Its devices send data to a data center where it can be accessed by homeowners with a smartphone or tablet app. “Data protection and data security are top priorities for us,” said Bernd Wrana, the head of IT at Schwaiger. “Trust is crucial in home automation. That’s why we wanted to switch our entire system to a provider who met the most stringent standards possible.” The entire process initially went through a foreign-based data center. However, many customers wanted the security afforded by German data protection laws, widely regarded as among the strictest in the world. And these laws only apply if the company’s headquarters and the cloud provider’s data center both are located in Germany. Schwaiger thus migrated its entire HOME4YOU home automation solution to the Open Telekom Cloud, hosted at Deutsche Telekom’s highly secure data centers in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. Does that mean that data from a lowly basement sensor really belongs in a German cloud? Yes, in some cases, according to Hans Markus Wulf, an attorney and partner at SKW Schwarz (see interview). Even foreign companies agree – including Swiss-based Octopus Cloud Inc. Its cloud service helps companies with complex software licensing for Microsoft SPLA or VMWare vCAN by generating licensing reports at a keystroke – a process that otherwise takes hours or even days to complete. The Swiss start-up has opted for the Open Telekom Cloud, largely for its superior data protection and data security. And so even international customers know their data is in excellent hands at German data centers. Clearly, this cloud offers more.
The Open Telekom Cloud is ready quickly. Octopus’s cloud, for example, was up and running after one week and one technical call. New digital business ideas can be implemented quickly at minimal risk in a public cloud. One feature appeals to startups like Octopus: a self-service portal for configuring the product. Users simply configure their servers and upload their applications. Larger organizations like another aspect: the Open Telekom Cloud’s automation dashboard. It lets users activate hundreds of virtual servers in a flash.
The Open Telekom Cloud is based on OpenStack. Being a true open source architecture for cloud computing, it allows customers to quickly and painlessly switch providers. That avoids vendor locking. OpenStack supports fast changes to alternative cloud services, too.
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